Mexican drug gangs become black market oxygen dealers as Covid-19 crisis worsens

Mexican drug gangs have become black market oxygen dealers with demand for the vital gas rising amid the nation's worsening Covid-19 crisis.

Gangs and internet fraudsters have been stealing oxygen tanks with 14 robberies taking place this month, according to Mexico's federal authorities.

Mexico has one of the highest death tolls worldwide from coronavirus, with only the USA and Brazil suffering more fatalities.

Now criminals have seen a gap in the market as many Mexicans are forced to treat their Covid-19 infected loved ones at home and are in desperate need of oxygen.

Interior minister Olga Sánchez said: "We’ve had reports of fake oxygen and black markets [for oxygen] – even (organised) crime is now involved."

Ricardo Sheffield, of the Mexican attorney general's office, said: "We're working hand in hand with cyber police, the National Guard, social media platforms and e-commerce sites.

"We've taken down more than 100 e-commerce pages that were defrauding consumers, speculating and abusing with their prices. (We deleted) 700 Facebook profiles as well and we're going to take another 1,000 down this week."

The authorities are warning people to ignore adverts for oxygen tanks on social media, saying that the tanks are probably stolen and filled with industrial rather than medical oxygen.

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They also said that many online sellers will take the money and won't deliver anything.

Mr Sheffield added: "You'll be throwing your money away. Most probably they won't deliver anything to you."

Police in Mexico City have uncovered six cases in which people paid for oxygen tanks after being offered low prices online but never received them.

Six oxygen supply businesses have been shut down by the authorities for passing off industrial oxygen as medical oxygen, selling half-filled tanks at full tank prices and massively inflating prices.

There have been five robberies in Mexico state, three in Mexico City, two in Tlaxcala and one in each of Puebla, Durango, Sonora and Michoacán.

Three men were arrested in Amozoc, Puebla, on Wednesday in connection with the robbery of a truck carrying 89 oxygen tanks while two men were ordered to stand trial after allegedly committing the same crime in Coacalo, México state.

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