HomeNewsBriefCosta Rica Crime Groups Diversifying Oil Theft Techniques

The ways in which gangs of fuel thieves in Costa Rica are tapping oil pipelines in order to steal and later resell the good are growing increasingly sophisticated, providing further evidence of the growing strength of criminal groups in the Central American nation.

What were previously rustic oil taps are now becoming more sophisticated as groups of fuel thieves in Costa Rica are paying experts as much as 3 million colons (around $5,000) to perform professionally made illegal oil taps on pipelines, CRHoy reported.

Since 2015, the Costa Rican Petroleum Refinery (Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo - RECOPE) -- the country’s state-owned oil company -- has seen an increase in the number of illegal oil taps, causing millions of dollars in losses, according to Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Agency (Organismo de Investigación Judicial – OIJ) and intelligence agency (Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad - DIS).

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Oil Theft

In May of this year, authorities arrested six suspected members of an oil theft network operating in the city of Heredia just north of the capital San José that allegedly stole at least $2 million from the state oil refinery, La Nación reported.

Just weeks later, authorities arrested 14 other suspected members of a different oil theft network operating in the city of Limón on the country’s Caribbean coast that allegedly stole more than $2.1 million in oil, EFE reported. Authorities also seized an AK-47 rifle, ammunition, trucks with specific storage tanks for oil, as well as bulletproof vests, among other things.

InSight Crime Analysis

The increased effort crime groups in Costa Rica are reportedly putting into their oil theft operations suggests that they are growing stronger and diversifying their criminal portfolios as a result.

A rise in coca production in Colombia since 2013 and the revitalization of Central America as one of the main corridors for cocaine being trafficked to US markets has transformed Costa Rica’s role as a key transshipment point in the drug trade. This has, in turn, provided increased revenues for local crime groups, which have diversified their portfolios and expanded into other illegal activities like oil theft and illegal gold mining.

SEE ALSO: Costa Rica News and Profile

Oil theft is big business in Latin America, and the industry is largely considered to be a relatively low-risk, high-reward revenue stream for crime groups. In Mexico, for example, it is a billion dollar industry that may prove more profitable than the drug trade, according to a recent report from Rolling Stone.

As crime groups grow stronger, it makes sense that they would venture into other, more profitable criminal activities like oil theft. However, it remains to be seen if Costa Rica will face the same deadly consequences that the lucrative industry has created in Mexico. Authorities in Costa Rica are already confronting rising violence due to increased fighting between criminal groups for control of local drug markets.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COSTA RICA / 27 JUL 2022

The installation of a radar tower on Costa Rica’s Cocos Island heralded a new era for curbing illegal fishing in…

COSTA RICA / 27 JUN 2022

Two months ago, Conti, one of the most-feared cybercrime operations in the world, unleashed a blitz of raids against websites…

COSTA RICA / 2 FEB 2023

Countries across Latin America continue to make stubbornly little progress in the fight against corruption.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…