HomeNewsBriefOil Theft Spikes in Mexico, While Impunity Remains Widespread
BRIEF

Oil Theft Spikes in Mexico, While Impunity Remains Widespread

MEXICO / 23 NOV 2016 BY TRISTAN CLAVEL EN

Barely one out of every ten cases of reported oil theft in Mexico is presented before a judge, a striking figure that illustrates the role pervasive impunity has played in the recent growth of this lucrative criminal industry.

Between 2010 and 2015, Mexico's Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de la República - PGR) opened nearly 12,000 pre-trial investigation cases for oil theft, reported Animal Político.

The annual number of incidents rose every year apart from 2015, for an overall increase of 409 percent over the five year period. While the PGR registered an average of 1.6 incidents per day in 2010, that number had gone up to 8 per day by 2015. (See graph below)

16-11-23-Mexico-Imunity Oil theft

These investigations led to the arrest of 2,430 individuals, but only 1,410 suspects were brought before a judge, either because the others arrested were found innocent or because the PGR lacked sufficient evidence to build a case. As a result, at least 88.2 percent of pre-trial investigations were never brought before a judge, and the theft therefore went unpunished.

The PGR's data shows that Sinaloa registered the most reported incidents of oil theft with 1,508, followed by Guanajuato, the state of Mexico, Jalisco and Veracruz. Of the top five, only Veracruz is as a main oil producer, according to El Economista.

These crimes can have concrete consequences for the population living in the affected areas. Last year, eleven Mexican states faced gas shortages, which the state-owned oil company Pemex attributed mainly to oil thefts, according to Sin Embargo. One of the most populated cities in the country, Guadalajara, has repeatedly experienced pipeline outages that have last for several days.

InSight Crime Analysis

The high impunity rate, combined with the high profits derived from oil theft, ensures that this illicit activity will endure and continue to sap Pemex's coffers. There is little risk and high reward for criminal groups to take advantage of a criminal industry that brought in an estimated $1.2 billion in 2014.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Oil Theft

But it appears it is not just Mexican oil thieves who are profiting. Pemex claims it lost $300 million from 23 US companies it accused of selling stolen oil. Five of the companies and an individual were ordered to reimburse Pemex $71 million, but not a single dollar was paid to the state-owned oil company due the culprits' lack of funds.

This year, the government increased considerably the maximum prison sentence that can be handed down for oil theft, making it equal to homicide. But as InSight Crime previously wrote, a higher risk of being punished for a crime serves as a much more powerful deterrent than simply increasing the severity of the punishment.  

High levels of impunity remain a widespread and costly issue for a variety of crimes in Mexico. Recent reports indicated that less than 20 percent of money laundering investigations were ever presented before a judge, while one study earlier this year estimated that less than one percent of all crimes in Mexico lead to a conviction. 

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

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 23 AUG 2016

Mexico's foreign minister has blamed lax US gun control laws for the flood of illegal weapons into the country, in…

COLOMBIA / 4 NOV 2020

When it comes to combating organized crime and drug trafficking, US President Donald Trump has chosen to strongarm his Latin…

BRAZIL / 30 OCT 2018

A new report says that authorities in Latin America continue to struggle in prosecuting cases of murdered journalists, suggesting an…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.