Between Veracruz and Tabasco there is a criminal network dedicated to stealing fuel from Pemex. The business consists of buying hydrocarbons from suppliers that “milk” the state-owned company’s pipelines at prices ranging from 2.50 to 4 pesos per liter to resell it later for 17 pesos. The leaks of emails from the Secretary of National Defense (Sedena), made a couple of weeks ago by the Guacamaya hacker group, report that the Mexican intelligence apparatus has closely followed the activities of the network to try to dissect its structure and has set as one of its priority objectives in the south of the country.
Due to the size of the shipments, which are usually five tankers, each with a capacity of 80,000 liters, the network receives around one million pesos. The marketers ask that the transactions be made immediately and through bank deposits –some of them via a debit card from the BBVA bank–, according to the information contained in the leaked emails to which Expansión has had access.
Today, the main market for stolen fuel is Monterrey, Nuevo León, but there are signs that the criminal network is seeking to start exports of gasoline to the United States and diesel to Saudi Arabia. At the moment, according to the monitoring of the authorities, this is only in plans.
The National Intelligence Fusion Center (CENFI) has called the investigation the ‘Olmeca Case’ and has placed it as one of its six priorities to follow in the southern region of the country, together with some others in which the Cartel has an influence. Jalisco New Generation.
National intelligence forces have been following this network since last April, according to document history. So far they have identified the activities of two interrelated criminal cells, one of them operated by “El Yayo” or “El Tigre” and the other by “El Gabo.”
“El Yayo” or “El Tigre”, a man barely 30 years old, has been left in charge of a business that until recently was managed by his uncle, known as “El Bombón”, whom investigations have identified. as a “businessman and leader of an independent cell from Tabasco” related to the Pura Gente Nueva cartel – which until recently had a strong presence in the south – and who was apprehended in August of last year. His nephew is identified by the authorities for drilling pipelines of the state company, handling resources of illicit origin, co-opting authorities and leading a network of hawks. Its activities, according to the documents, are concentrated in Comalcalco, Huimanguillo and Cárdenas, Tabasco.
“El Gabo”, a man who is barely over forty years old, is investigated for similar actions, added to the coordination of fuel extraction. Its points of action are also concentrated in Cárdenas and Huimanguillo, added to Villahermosa, Tabasco, and La Tinaja, in Veracruz, an area that functions as a meeting point for federal highways and toll highways that lead to the southern states of the country.
Both cells obtain fuel from two main gasoline suppliers with operations in Tabasco and Veracruz: Eder García and “El Hammer”. The latter, the documents say, would have a strong network of contacts in the Deputy Attorney General’s Office Specialized in Organized Crime Investigation (SEIDO), who would provide him with constant protection.
The activities followed by the intelligence elements identify in one of the documents six points that could be used for the illegal extraction and storage of hydrocarbons: three on the Villahermosa-Chetumal highway, one more on the Villahermosa-Coatzacoalcos highway, another site on a dirt road between the Los Naranjos and Río Seco communities, and in the Pemex Íride separation battery.
The documents also identify as illegal gasoline extraction points a Pemex macropear in Tabasco and the “El Castaño” gas and petrochemical facilities, which the company has in Cárdenas, Veracruz. The extraction of gasoline begins at 6:00 in the evening and lasts until 7:00 in the morning.
The parking lot of the hotel ‘El Viajero’ works, according to the investigations, as a storage area for the pipes. In this place, located on the Costera del Golfo highway, in Cárdenas, Tabasco, the drivers wait for directions to enter the site where one of the clandestine intakes is located. Right here they await the delivery of the apocryphal documentation used to justify the possession of the fuel before the authorities that could be on the way to deliver the hydrocarbon.
The criminal network has a logistics structure to transport the fuel to the north of the country, via road and through tankers. The cell operated by “El Gabo”, for example, has at least 12 drivers, three trucks with a capacity to transport 55,000 liters, two storage tanks with a capacity of 80,000 liters each, as well as a frac tank – a steel tank. with a capacity to store 80,000 liters, according to the information contained in the leaked emails.
The fuel transport route is not completely well described, but the Mexican intelligence service has identified that the tankers loaded with gasoline pass through the collection booths of Acayucan and Totomoxtle, Papantla, in Veracruz.
Until now, the destination of the stolen fuel is the north of the country, but the groups have received expressions of interest from clients from the south, from Yucatan and Quintana Roo, and have already delivered samples of “green” and “black” gasoline to try to close customer orders seeking to buy up to 2 million liters of fuel per week.
The documents reveal an interest of the organization to increase its structure of activities. The network dedicated to fuel theft, according to a follow-up up to August of this year, has received offers to send the stolen gasoline to the United States, through a businessman in Mexico City who has permits to export abroad, but who I don’t know reveals more information, and to take diesel to Saudi Arabia. This last operation, according to the documents, had to be paused.
Between bribes and ‘floor rights’
For all movements, they have the protection of government personnel, who would provide them with apocryphal documentation to justify the transfer of fuel and timely notices about the operations initiated by the Secretary of the Navy and the Army. When these are done, the groups lock up their pipes and stop all movement until they are finished.
The members of the organizations actively hold meetings with personnel from Pemex, the Attorney General’s Office and the National Guard. A follow-up of the groups, between July and August, reports the existence –or at least planning– of two of them.
The documents state that a part of the Pemex security personnel, whom they call “the mirrors”, have not agreed to arrangements and that the organizations have proposed their arrest.
The leaks reveal an operating structure similar to that of a business organization: with legal representatives, suppliers and distributors of hydrocarbons and managers with government agents, including security officials from the state-owned Pemex, agents from the National Guard, from the Secretariat of Public Security and Citizen Protection, officials of the oil company and directors of the Comprehensive Port Administration. In the follow-up, the intelligence group even mentions the participation of “a secretary from above” who would receive deposits from the network and would have provided protection through links with SEIDO officials in Tabasco, about whom no further information is revealed.
And the cells dedicated to gasoline theft, which the documents refer to as an ‘independent hydrocarbon trafficking group’, have a relationship beyond government officials. The groups must report their activities to a fraction of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel that operates between Tabasco and Veracruz. The reports give an account of death threats towards some of the members and deposits towards the group dedicated mostly to drug trafficking.
The monitoring of the Mexican intelligence apparatus has joined forces on a key issue in the presidential speech: the fight against fuel theft has been set as one of the strong points of the strategy to save the oil company from a financial crisis that has dragged on, despite the global scenario that has brought a good time for energy companies.
Since the presidency, the fight against huachicol has been portrayed as a successful strategy, but the numbers of the state-owned Pemex show a different picture: in the second quarter of the year, the state-owned company registered the theft of 6,500 barrels of gasoline per day compared to 4,200 barrels of a year before. The losses show a more discouraging picture: the company lost 5,629 million pesos in just three months.