(Reuters) via Chinadaily.com Updated: 2007-04-12 09:06 BEIJING - China will launch a new police campaign to snare gangs that illegally drill for oil or steal from oil and gas pipelines, the official Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.
Police would investigate theft of oil and gas in provinces through which China's West-East pipeline runs, from Xinjiang in the far west to Shandong in the east, Xinhua on Wednesday reported Liu Jinguo, vice minister of Public Security, as saying.
The eight-month campaign will follow investigations that helped bust 650 gangs last year, resulting in theft charges being laid against some 7,500 people, it said.
China arrested more than 4,500 people for theft of oil, illegally drilling for oil and gas or damaging pipelines in 2006, Xinhua reported in January.
Last year's crackdown netted 9,000 tonnes of oil, or 65,700 barrels, a haul worth several million dollars but a drop in the ocean of China's demand of nearly 7 million barrels per day.
Most of the thieves were farmers and villagers tapping into crude and gas pipelines that pass near their houses, and diverting the fuel into crude plastic bags or balloons.
The oil is often sold to small illegal refineries that are shut down by authorities due to heavy pollution.