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Mexico's Pemex Sues U.S. Companies over Stolen Chemicals

Pemex said the companies — including the U.S. subsidiary of BASF — have encouraged the theft of Mexican natural gas condensate by actively participating in the smuggling of stolen petroleum products for use in Texas.

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's state-run oil company filed a lawsuit Monday against five companies, including the U.S. subsidiary of German chemical maker BASF, for allegedly buying stolen Mexican petroleum products.

Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, says in the lawsuit filed in a Houston court that the companies allegedly profited from the theft of natural gas condensate. It claims at least $300 million worth of condensate from the Burgos basin in northeast Mexico has been stolen since 2006.

Pemex is asking for at least $900 million in damages. The suit also names Murphy Energy Corp., Trammo Petroleum Inc., U.S. Petroleum Depot Inc., Valley Fuels and five individuals.

Pemex said the companies have encouraged the theft by "actively participating in the smuggling of stolen condensate into the United States and/or purchasing it for use in Texas."

BASF operates a petrochemical plant in Port Arthur, Texas. Pemex said the company allegedly purchased at least $2.4 million worth of stolen condensate from other defendants named in the suit.

Daniel Pepitone, a U.S. spokesman for Germany-based BASF, didn't immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The Mexican government says drug cartels and criminals tap into remote pipelines, sometimes building pipelines of their own, and siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars worth of oil and petroleum products each year.

In the lawsuit, Pemex said gangs have also hijacked tanker trucks on their way to its refineries.

It said the investigation has resulted in the arrest of at least 40 people, including two Mexican customs officers who allowed the trucks to cross into the U.S. with false documents.

"The lawsuit filed by Pemex is the first of its kind in the United States and is the result of an investigation being led with cooperation from the U.S. government," Pemex said in a statement.