Mexico State Oil Company Loses 17,000 Gallons per Hour to Theft

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Criminal syndicates in Mexico stole more than 1.8 million barrels of oil from national oil company Pemex in the first six months of 2012, an increase of 18 percent compared to the previous year.

According to an August 10 report published on its website, Pemex announced that its pipeline systems have been “practically taken over by organized crime and armed groups,” who steal crude oil in order to sell it on both the domestic and international markets.

Mexico’s El Diario calculated that the 1.8 million barrels stolen in the first half of 2012 alone amounted to an average of more than 64,500 liters (some 17,000 gallons) of oil per hour.

The company registered 824 instances of theft during this period, with the states of Veracruz and Sinaloa seeing the most incidents. Tamaulipas, Sonora and Nuevo Leon also saw significant levels of oil theft. Some 111 people were charged with stealing oil in Mexico this year.

InSight Crime Analysis

Mexico’s largest criminal organizations are increasingly looking to oil theft as an alternative source of income. While this has traditionally been a small scale operation, in recent years criminal groups like the Zetas and Sinaloa Cartel have begun stealing massive amounts of oil, often selling it to refineries in the United States through intermediaries.

The crime is an attractive business for these groups for several reasons. Because the authorities do not have the resources to monitor the thousands of kilometers of pipelines in the country, oil can be illegally siphoned at relatively low risk. Additionally, the large bureaucracy associated with Pemex represents an easy target for corruption, as InSight Crime has pointed out.

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