Mexico detains gang accused of $2.2 mln in monthly crude oil theft

lunes 29 de septiembre de 2014 23:39 GYT

MEXICO CITY, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Mexico arrested five members of a gang suspected of stealing more than 4 million liters (25,200 barrels) of crude oil per month, the government said on Monday, which amounts to at least $2.2 million at current Mexican crude prices.

Tomas Zeron, head of the attorney general's criminal investigations unit, told reporters that among the detainees is the gang's leader, a businessman in the state of Guanajuato who held a 2011 gasoline distribution concession from state oil company Pemex.

Zeron said the leader's business, Petrobajio S.A. de C.V., paid an unnamed criminal outfit in northern Tamaulipas state five million pesos ($370,600) per month to separately obtain stolen gasoline stored in the states of Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi and Jalisco.

He added that the ongoing investigation revealed that the gang, whose leader and members were not specifically named, then sold the stolen gasoline below Pemex prices to mostly paper, metal and tequila businesses.

Police officials are believed to have assisted in the theft.

At current prices for Mexico's main blend of crude, or about $88 per barrel, the alleged theft of crude oil amounted to at least $2.2 million per month.

Illegal taps on Pemex crude oil and gasoline pipelines have risen steadily since 2008 to more than 2,600 reported cases in 2013. The losses cost the Mexican oil giant hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

($1 = 13.4900 Mexican peso) (Reporting by David Alire Garcia and Luis Rojas; Editing by Tom Hogue)