Mexico files fresh suit against oil companies in case alleging cartel fuel thefts

By Mica Rosenberg

Mexico's state oil company Pemex has filed a fresh lawsuit against a dozen oil companies including units of Royal Dutch Shell, alleging they sold fuel stolen by drug gangs, U.S. court filings show.

Pemex filed the new complaint in a court in the Southern District of Texas on April 10, after a judge ruled Mexico's oil monopoly could not add the Shell subsidiaries and other companies, including ConocoPhillips, to an original claim filed in 2010.

Pemex's exploration and production arm (PEP) claims the companies traded or transported upwards of $300 million of natural gas condensates, which can be refined into high-value oil products, that it says were hijacked by criminal gangs linked to violent Mexican drug cartels and smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Some of the defendants knew, or at least should have known, they were trading in or transporting, stolen condensate," the court papers said. "Others were ignorant that they were purchasing stolen goods. In either case, however, the defendants took possession of Mexico's sovereign property."

The new case, which is almost identical to the original 2010 filing, alleges the U.S. trading arm of Shell, STUSCO, was the
largest marketer of the condensate, trading at least $150 million of the fuel but without knowing it was stolen.

It says ConocoPhillips bought at least $35 million in stolen fuel from third parties, also with no knowledge of the condensate's illicit origin.