June 19, 2020 / 8:14 PM / 23 days ago

EXCLUSIVE-Mexico freezes bank accounts of entities sanctioned by U.S.

MEXICO CITY, June 19 (Reuters) - The Mexican government’s financial crime department has frozen the bank accounts of companies and people blacklisted by the United States under accusations of having evaded the sanction regime imposed on Venezuela, its chief said on Friday.

Santiago Nieto, chief of Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit, did not elaborate on details, but told Reuters that bank accounts of “all those listed” by the U.S Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control were frozen.

Washington on Thursday blacklisted Mexico-based Libre Abordo and related firm Schlager Business Group, accusing them of helping Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s administration evade sanctions, in the first formal action by the U.S. Treasury against Mexican firms involved in trading Venezuelan oil.

The United States also imposed sanctions on four firms linked to Mexicans Joaquin Leal Jimenez, Veronica Esparza and Olga Zepeda, which it accused of having cooperated with Libre Abordo, Schlager and businessman Alex Saab, arrested last week in Cape Verde, to evade sanctions.

“Saab and Leal, working with Mexico-based Libre Abordo and Schlager Business Group, brokered the re-sale of over 30 million barrels of crude oil on behalf of (Venezuela’s state-run) PDVSA,” the Treasury said on Thursday.

Nieto said the accounts of Zepeda were among those that were frozen.

Leal, Esparza and Zepeda could not immediately be reached for comment. (Reporting by Diego Ore; additional reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; writing by Marianna Parraga; editing by Leslie Adler)

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