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Court unfreezes accounts of Mexican firm sanctioned by U.S.

A Mexican court has unfrozen the bank accounts of a local company blacklisted by the United States for trading in oil with Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA despite U.S. sanctions, Mexico's anti-money laundering unit said on Saturday.

MEXICO CITY, Sept 19 (Reuters) - A Mexican court has unfrozen the bank accounts of a local company blacklisted by the United States for trading in oil with Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA despite U.S. sanctions, Mexico's anti-money laundering unit said on Saturday.

In a statement, Mexico's Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) said it disagreed with the decision by a local judge to unfreeze Libre Abordo's bank accounts and said it had filed an appeal.

Libre Abordo and its related company Schlager Business Group threw a lifeline to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro late last year by signing a deal to trade its crude and fuel in return for Mexican corn and water trucks.

The companies said the oil-for-food deal did not violate U.S. sanctions imposed on PDVSA in January 2019.

However, the U.S. Treasury blacklisted both companies in June, accusing them of helping Maduro's administration evade sanctions. The UIF, part of Mexico's finance ministry, said the following day it had frozen the bank accounts of both companies.

Libre Abordo and Schlager declined to comment. The court did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"The UIF demonstrated to the court that the accounts were blocked due to a request for international assistance, cooperation and collaboration made by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Treasury," the agency said, adding the judge's ruling contravened Mexico's international commitments.

In June, Libre Abordo said it would ask lawyers to evaluate a decision by the U.S. Treasury Department, which sanctioned it for trading millions of barrels of Venezuelan crude and fuel.

Libre Abordo said U.S. sanctions are wrongly linking the company to unrelated entities under sanctions.

Libre Abordo said in May it was declaring bankruptcy after what it said were losses of $90 million amid what it called "excessive" U.S. pressure. The trade with Venezuela was suspended, the company said.

(Reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher and Ana Isabel Martinez Editing by Daniel Flynn and Chris Reese)

((Stefanie.Eschenbacher@thomsonreuters.com;))

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