EFEMexico City

State-owned oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, lost more than 19 billion pesos ($1.2 billion) last year due to gasoline theft and the tapping of pipelines, a crime that has grown over the past 15 years, the Mexico City daily El Universal reported Monday.

A total of 11,872 illegal taps were discovered between 2000 and 2014, with the number of cases rising from 132 in 2001 to 3,348 in 2014, the newsaper said, citing figures provided by the energy company in response to a request filed under Mexico's freedom of information law.

Theft of fuel from Pemex pipelines, known in Mexico as "milking," has grown because of rising demand for fuel on the black market, where it sells for between five pesos and eight pesos ($0.30 and $0.50), or about half the official price.

Losses from fuel theft totaled 19.41 billion pesos ($1.29 billion) last year, Pemex Refinacion deputy director of distribution Francisco Fernandez Lagos said.

An analysis done by the newspaper found that the 10 cities with the highest number of cases of fuel theft are Altamira and Reynosa, in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas; Culiacan, Mocorito and Salvador Alvarado, in the northwestern state of Sinaloa; Huimanguillo, in the southeastern state of Tabasco; Juan Rodriguez Clara and Tierra Blanca, in the eastern state of Veracruz; Zapotlanejo, in the western state of Jalisco; and Tecate, in the northwestern state of Baja California.

Thirty-six other cities in 13 different states accounted for 50 percent of the fuel theft cases.

Pemex employees, drug traffickers and business owners are among those involved in the illegal activity, which has grown because of inaction by the company's union and management's failure to crack down on those stealing fuel, security consultatnt Raul Benitez Manaut said.

In the city of Altamira alone, the number of cases surged from one in 2000 to 226 by 2013 and 309 last year.