Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Pemex Files Unprecedented Lawsuit against U.S. Companies Who Purchased Stolen Fuel

Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Pemex Files Unprecedented Lawsuit against U.S. Companies Who Purchased Stolen Fuel

Article excerpt

In an unprecedented action, Mexico's state-run oil company PEMEX has filed a lawsuit in a US court against a handful of US companies and the subsidiary of a German chemical manufacturer, accusing them of knowingly buying fuel products stolen from PEMEX facilities in northern Mexico. The suit, filed in Federal District Court in Houston, alleges that five US-based companies purchased stolen petroleum condensate from intermediaries who had acquired the fuel from the drug-smuggling cartel the Zetas.

The Zetas, once the enforcement arm of the Gulf cartel, appear to have branched out into other illegal operations, including fuel theft (see SourceMex, 2010-01-06).

The lawsuit, filed by PEMEX subsidiary Pemex Exploración y Producción (PEP), alleges that five companies--Murphy Energy Corp., Trammo Petroleum, BASF, Valley Fuels, and US Petroleum Depot--acquired the fuel even though they were aware that the product had been stolen from PEMEX. A number of small companies were also said to have participated in the scheme including Ygriega Energy, Petro Salum, and Valley Fuels. All the companies are based in Texas, except Murphy Energy Corp., whose headquarters is in Oklahoma.

Through the legal action, PEP is hoping primarily to halt the smuggling operations, which have resulted in the loss of as much as US$300 million.

James Teater, the attorney representing PEP in the lawsuit, said the primary goal is to stop the thefts. "As long as they see a market for stolen Pemex condensate, they will find a way to steal it," Teater said, in reference to the Zetas and their accomplices.

The lawsuit also aims to recover the value of fuel stolen in the states of Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and Chihuahua. "The state-run oil company recognizes that, in the past several years, illicit groups have concentrated their efforts on theft of fuel originating in the Burgos region, which has a high market value," said the Mexico City daily newspaper Milenio. …

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