Mexico's military discovered over 1.5 million liters of stolen oil in Veracruz state, a region dominated by the Zetas, pointing to the growing importance of oil theft to the country's biggest criminal gangs.

Soldiers made the discovery after acting on information provided by citizens in the municipality of Minatitlan, southeast Veracruz, the Defense Department told EFE. Along with the oil -- over 90 percent of which was still in crude form -- two tanker truckers and eight tanker trailers were seized from two clandestine depots.

The depots were found close to a refinery run by state oil company Pemex.

Mexico's Attorney General's Office announced earlier this month that it had opened several preliminary investigations into companies accused of buying fuel stolen from Pemex. Pemex is reportedly taking legal action against 14 US companies alleged to have bought fuel stolen by the Zetas gang.

InSight Crime Analysis

During President Felipe Calderon's time in office, large-scale criminal groups have become increasingly involved in oil theft in Mexico. Once the reserve of small-time gangs, in recent years there has been evidence of both the Zetas and their rivals the Sinaloa Cartel gaining a growing stake in the trade.

In the same period, the amount of fuel stolen from Pemex has risen considerably. Some 3 million barrels (just under 477 million liters) of oil were stolen in 2011, a jump of 52 percent on the previous year, and representing a loss of $475 million to the company.

Pemex employees and Mexican government officials are sometimes complicit in oil theft, as the Senate has noted.

Though the two illegal depots were discovered in Veracruz, a Zetas stronghold, the state worst afflicted by oil theft is now Sinaloa, which overtook Veracruz and Nuevo Leon last year in the number of illegal siphons detected, according to Excelsior. Given the extensive network of pipelines running throughout the country and the government's inability to police them all, oil theft will likely remain a highly lucrative business for gangs, offering a relatively low-cost, low-risk source of revenue.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...