Alex Saab Used Mexican Companies to Help Maduro Evade Sanctions

Mexican companies helped the regime evade international sanctions while marketing Venezuelan oil in Asia

Most of those sanctioned are based in Mexico and participate in this financial scheme of sale and purchase of crude oil seeking benefits from the state oil company PDVSA and the Maduro regime (Department of the Treasury).

Spanish – Alex Saab, Nicolás Maduro’s frontman, has allegedly established a network in Mexico to circumvent international sanctions. The operation is estimated to be worth 230 million USD.

A report by Spanish newspaper El País and research portal Armando.info revealed how a Mexican company helped the Maduro regime in the commercialization of crude oil while evading sanctions.

According to the report, in June 2019, the company Libre Abordo S.A. signed an agreement with the state-owned Venezuelan Foreign Trade Corporation (Corpovex) to exchange Venezuelan oil for corn, as well as tankers for drinking water from Mexico.

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, more than 30 million barrels of Venezuelan oil was shipped through Saab’s triangulated negotiation.

In June, the Treasury Department sanctioned three Mexican citizens and eight companies linked to the scheme for violating the sanctions imposed on Venezuela. Joaquín Leal, 28, Verónica Esparza, 47, and her daughter Olga María Zepeda Esparza, 24, were blacklisted by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for doing business with PDVSA from June 2019 to the first half of 2020.

According to OFAC, Leal and Saab negotiated the sale of the oil and partnered with the Mexican company Libre Abordo. The documents of the Venezuelan-Mexican agreement reveal inconsistencies, and Saab is said to have been involved in the process, the investigation says.

Oil For Food

According to the investigations of the Treasury Department, Maduro’s frontman, Alex Saab, arrested in Cape Verde, and Joaquín Leal Jiménez of Mexico would be behind this network of evading sanctions with a supposed “humanitarian” program where the regime commercializes Venezuelan oil in exchange for overpriced food that was never delivered to Venezuela.

“Saab and Leal, working with Mexico-based companies Libre Abordo and Schlager Business Group, brokered the re-sale of over 30 million barrels of crude oil on behalf of PdVSA, approximately 40% of PdVSA’s oil exports in April 2020,” said the Treasury Department.

“Though Libre Abordo and Schlager Business Group claimed to have contracts with the Government of Venezuela to deliver corn and water tanker trucks to Venezuela, Libre Abordo and Schlager Business Group failed to deliver corn to Venezuela and sent approximately 500 water trucks (only half of what was contracted) at grossly inflated prices. This does not match the amount of PdVSA crude oil that was lifted and re-sold by Libre Abordo and Schlager Business Group, valued in excess of 300 million USD.” the Treasury Department added.

“Libre Abordo agreed to lift and broker the sale of Venezuelan-origin crude oil supplied by PdVSA in a scheme orchestrated by Saab and Tareck El Aissami.”

According to the investigations, these Mexican companies played the same role as the Russian state-owned Rosneft in helping the regime market crude oil. “In January 2020, Libre Abordo and Schlager Business Group accounted for approximately three percent of PdVSA’s exports. By April 2020, that figure rose to almost 40 percent of PdVSA’s exports,” explained the U.S. authorities.

A Reuters report revealed that the Mexican company Libre Abordo S.A. became an accomplice to the regime by marketing Venezuelan oil and helping the Maduro regime evade international sanctions. The company claims that this is a transaction related to “humanitarian aid.”

“Libre Abordo has so far taken 6.2 million barrels of Venezuelan heavy oil for resale in international markets and has two more cargoes of oil and fuel to be loaded this month, according to PDVSA export programs reviewed by Reuters,” the agency said.

According to a company statement, the transactions are part of an alleged contract with the socialist regime that seeks to export Mexican trucks of corn and water to Venezuela in exchange for oil supplies. However, it is a company that has no experience in the oil sector.

The company Libre Abordo reported that it expects to complete delivery of 210,000 tonnes of white maize and 1,000 trucks of water in the coming months while receiving oil in return.

Reuters research reveals that the company was formed about a decade ago. However, it registered a sudden increase in its activities last year.

Mexico’s complicity

Just as the role of Libre Abordo S.A. was revealed, it was also made public that Mexico reportedly freed the accounts of Maduro’s frontman, and at the same time, allowed the illegal business of money laundering to continue within the framework of the imports of the subsidized CLAP food boxes.

An investigation by the portals Armando.info and Excelsior revealed that in November 2019, Colombians Alex Saab Morán and Álvaro Pulido Vargas managed to circumvent international sanctions while maintaining illicit business with the CLAPs. With new food brands, they maintain businesses in Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela.

The research explains that “Renaciente” brand products, used by Maduro to control Venezuela’s poorest population, are packaged by 4PL Industrial S.A.S. According to Armando.info, this is a Colombian firm that connects the Saab and Pulido network with two other Colombians: Carlos Lizcano Manrique and Jorge Andrés Saavedra Bedoya.

The report states that “sources knowledgeable about the business claim that 4PL Industrial is still in charge of logistics operations from the free zone of the port of Cartagena, Colombia, and even packages some of the bulk products that Colombian businessmen buy in Mexico, such as lentils and black beans of the Renaciente brand.”

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