Mexico City police detected the presence of fuel thieves in the capital in 2017 but failed to do anything to stop them.
A report published today by the newspaper El Universal said that authorities argued that it was the responsibility of the federal government to investigate the crime and prosecute those responsible.
Nevertheless, an investigation carried out by the intelligence division of the Mexico City Secretariat of Public Security (SSP) identified a distribution network for stolen fuel, which was allegedly purchased by 80 gas stations located mainly in the southern boroughs of Coyoacán, Tlalpan, Xochimilco and Milpa Alta.
The SSP determined that a band of at least 20 fuel thieves ran the fuel theft racket out of the northern borough of Azcapotzalco.
All of the gang members were allegedly involved both in the tapping of pipelines and the distribution of stolen fuel, known colloquially as huachicol.
Five pipelines that transport gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel run through populated areas of the capital and a lack of surveillance leaves them vulnerable to illegal taps.
According to the SSP, the criminal gang perforated pipelines at least once a month and used barrels with the capacity to hold up to 500 liters to transport the fuel to the complicit gas stations, which paid up to 15 pesos a liter for the product.
The gang also allegedly sold stolen fuel to public transportation operators in Mexico City and parts of the surrounding metropolitan area of México state as well as to taxi drivers, moto-taxi drivers and farmers.
Last year, Mexico City authorities discovered two warehouses that were used to store stolen fuel. When police arrived at one of them, they found a group of thieves who had passed out due to the inhalation of fuel.
Last July, one fuel thief who was involved in a separate fuel theft operation was arrested but the vast majority of huachicoleros operating in Mexico City remain at large.
Attorney General Ernestina Godoy, who was sworn in last month as a member of the new Mexico City government, has also stressed that it is the responsibility of federal authorities to combat the fuel theft problem.
The federal government is currently implementing a new anti-fuel theft strategy that has caused fuel shortages in more than 10 states.
Source: El Universal (sp)