MEXICO CITY, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Mexican criminal gangs during the past two years have stolen $1 billion in oil from the country's state-run oil company, officials say.
Using a fleet of stolen tanker trucks, miles of rubber hose and high-tech drills, the notorious gang known as the Zetas have established sophisticated operations to siphon off petroleum from the state-run Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, robbing the Mexican treasury of revenues, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
The Zetas, many of whom are former Mexican soldiers, have graduated from their roles as enforcers for drug cartels to running their own criminal enterprises in the oil-rich states of Veracruz and Tamaulipas, the newspaper said.
"The Zetas are a parallel government," Eduardo Mendoza Arellano, a federal lawmaker who heads a national committee on energy, told the Post. "They practically own vast stretches of the pipelines, from the highway to the very door of the oil companies."
Ramon Pequeno García, chief of anti-drug operations at Mexico's Public Security Ministry, added that the Zetas often work with former Pemex employees who "are highly skilled people who have the technical knowledge to extract oil from the pipelines. They are now under the control of the Zetas."