Mexican Oil Boss Raises Concerns over Theft of Crude

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With losses from oil theft growing rapidly, the director of Mexico’s state oil company has called for a new strategy to protect the company’s crude.

In an appearance before the lower house of the Mexican Congress, Pemex boss Juan Jose Suarez Coppel said his company suffered losses of over $250 million thanks to fuel theft in the first quarter of 2011, a jump of nearly 265 percent from the same period in 2010. Suárez Coppel said that so far this year they have found 556 clandestine siphons, which is closing in on the figure of 710 for all of 2010.

Suarez Coppel said that Pemex was working to develop monitoring technology that would allow the company to detect and respond to oil theft along isolated pipelines more quickly.

Officials have long fingered the Zetas as the criminal group particularly focused on siphoning gas. The expansion into oil theft by criminal groups reflects a wider diversification of activities, as Mexican gangs have increasingly branched out in extortion, kidnapping, and the marketing of pirate merchandise.

Suarez Coppel’s comments come amid a broader anti-theft effort from the state-owned company. As InSight noted, Pemex recently filed several lawsuits against nine US companies for their alleged involvement in the buying and reselling of the stolen fuel.

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