MEXICO CITY – Mexican state oil company Pemex’s detection of more than 10,000 illegal fuel taps on its pipelines in 2017, a new record, was due not to an increase in this crime but to stricter controls, the federal government said Thursday.
“Pemex has greatly enhanced its detection of illegal fuel taps ... We’re going to deepen this new strategy. We’re not going to change it. It began last year and it’s a new strategy for fighting fuel theft,” presidential spokesman Eduardo Sanchez said at a press conference.
He said greater coordination had been achieved among federal government agencies, allowing Pemex to work closely with them to share financial intelligence data and information about fuel purchases by service stations in a bid to detect instances of theft.
Sanchez also touted the support received from state authorities.
“The result is that we’re detecting more illegal fuel taps and they can be shut down more quickly. The volume of fuel seized from ‘huachicoleros’ (fuel thieves) has risen, and the number of people being prosecuted for gasoline theft has increased,” Sanchez said.
As part of this new strategy, authorities also are cracking down on service stations that sell stolen fuel, with 70 of these stations shuttered over a six-month period of 2017.
Pemex reported 10,364 illegal fuel taps in 2017, up 51 percent from the 6,873 detected in 2016 and a new record.
Theft of fuel from pipelines belonging to Pemex, known in Mexico as “milking,” is common, with both individuals and organized crime groups involved in the illegal activity.
Fuel theft in Mexico results in financial losses totaling between 15 billion pesos and 20 billion pesos (between $800 million and $1.07 billion) annually, according to official figures.
Pemex workers are suspected of facilitating this crime.