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

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...

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 leader Carlos Lechuga Mojica, alias "El Viejo Lin," is one of the most prominent spokesmen for El Salvador's gang truce. InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Mojica in Cojutepeque prison in October 2012 about how the maras view the controversial peace process, which has...

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

If we are to believe the Colombian government, the question is not if, but rather when, an end to 50 years of civil conflict will be reached. Yet the promise of President Juan Manuel Santos that peace can be achieved before the end of 2014 is simply...

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

When considering the possibilities that the FARC may break apart, the Ivan Rios Bloc is a helpful case study because it is perhaps the weakest of the FARC's divisions in terms of command and control, and therefore runs the highest risk of fragmentation and criminalization.

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

While there is no doubt that the FARC have only a tenuous control over some of their more remote fronts, there is no evidence of any overt dissident faction within the movement at the moment.

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

Ricardo Mauricio Menesses Orellana liked horses, and the Pasaquina rodeo was a great opportunity to enjoy a party. He was joined at the event -- which was taking place in the heart of territory controlled by El Salvador's most powerful drug transport group, the Perrones -- by the...

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

On May 27, 1964 up to one thousand Colombian soldiers, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, launched an assault against less than fifty guerrillas in the tiny community of Marquetalia. The aim of the operation was to stamp out once and for all the communist threat in...

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

The United States -- which through its antinarcotics, judicial and police attaches was very familiar with the routes used for smuggling, and especially those used for people trafficking and understood that those traffickers are often one and the same -- greeted the new government of Elias Antonio...

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this assertion seems unfounded, there is one case that illustrates just why the US government is worried about the future.

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...