Mexico’s oil company is losing more than a billion dollars a year to cartels — and its own employees are helping them out

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mexico oil

Mexico has seen a surge in fuel theft in recent years.
Mexican organized-crime groups are responsible for much of the theft, but other criminals and even civilians take part.
Mexican officials say they’ve had some success, but admit theft is on the rise.

Fuel theft is losing Mexico’s state-run oil firm Pemex more than $1.6 billion a year, the company’s director-general, Carlos Treviño, said earlier this week.

According to a Pemex report released earlier this month, fuel theft is at record levels. Fuel thieves, who are called huachicoleros, drilled 2,274 illegal taps in the company’s pipelines during the first two months of 2018 — 38% more than during the same period in 2017 and 352% more than were discovered in the first two months of 2014.

Gangs and organized-crime groups are the main perpetrators of fuel theft, but local residents have been known to tap pipelines for fuel to use or resell. Scores of Pemex employees have been accused of complicity in such theft.

Mexico’s Public Administration Secretariat said in October 2017 that it was investigating at least 40 Pemex workers in the northern state of Chihuahua on suspicion of stealing fuel. The workers allegedly overfill tanker trucks and then offload the extra fuel before the tankers reach gas stations.

At the end of March, federal authorities said 65 Pemex employees were among 299 public workers being investigated for corruption. Twenty-three of those 65 employees were being investigated for links to Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction firm implicated in a massive bribery scheme throughout Latin America. (Former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya has been accused of taking $10 million in bribes from Odebrecht in exchange for giving it contracts.)

During his comments on Tuesday, Treviño said Pemex had fired about 100 employees linked to fuel theft.

“Pemex is a victim of this scourge,” he said. “We have zero tolerance and when we have found someone who we believe is involved, we have reported them and we have fired them. It has always been this way.”

“One of the things we did last year was detain 1,600 people” caught committing theft, he added. “And around 1,300 face a judicial process in that respect. We have also detained more than 1,600 vehicles, which were seized and are under the protection of authorities, as well as recover more than 14 million liters of stolen fuel.”

Oil theft has surged in recent years, driven in part by growing involvement from organized-crime groups that are also involved in drug trafficking, extortion, and other crimes. Between the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2018, there were numerous cases of thieves boarding or attempting to board ships or oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico in order to steal fuel.

“The business is more profitable than drug trafficking because it implies less risk,” said Georgina Trujillo, a congresswoman from the governing PRI who heads the lower house energy commission.

“You don’t have to risk crossing the border …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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