Episode four - Specialist Response Amphetamine Type Stimulants Team (SRATS) / Timor-Leste

In this episode of AFP investigators have received a tip off that there is an illegal drug laboratory hidden in the suburbs of Sydney.  If they are right they could be dealing with a house that could literally explode, putting hundreds of lives at risk.

We also follow Federal Agent Morag McGowan who has spent more than a year trying to help rebuild the world’s youngest country, Timor-Leste.  Today we follow her on her last in the troubled nation.  Before she gets on a plane she has to say goodbye to a group of orphans who have become her extended family.  She has no idea what sort of surprise they have in store for her.

Specialist Response Amphetamine Type Stimulants Team

Clandestine drug labs are commonly set up in suburban neighbourhoods where the lethal cocktail of highly toxic and flammable ingredients in unstable conditions poses a significant threat to the community.

These domestic drug factories or 'clan labs' which produce and supply the Australian domestic drug market with amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) are a major activity of organised crime in Australia. The scale of the domestic market is increasing and the level of operation of criminal networks is substantial.

Research suggests almost a quarter of Australians aged between 20-29 years have used ecstasy.  The detection of clan labs has reached record numbers and arrests for amphetamine offences are the highest on record.

The AFP specifically targets synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals like ephedrine and safrole from entering our shores as the lucrative trade in illicit drugs is the backbone of the criminal economy.

Safrole, or sassafras oil, is one of the key ingredients needed to manufacture ecstasy (MDMA). Safrole is extracted from the Mreah Prov tree which is commonly found in Cambodia, using a steam distillation process.

In 2008, more than 900 tonnes of Mreah Prov timber was illegally felled by one crime group producing 35 tonnes safrole. This was later seized by Cambodian authorities and destroyed in a spectacular drug burn with the help of the AFP SRATS team.

This quantity of safrole, once mixed with other chemicals had the potential to yield 260 million ecstasy tablets worth more than $7.6 billion.

The production of synthetic drugs in backyard labs also produces vast amounts of toxic waste polluting the local environment. For every 1kg of ecstasy manufactured, approximately 8kgs of toxic waste is produced.

Read more information on the SRATS Team

United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (or UNMIT)

In August 1999, the people of Timor-Leste went to the polls and registered their desire to become an independent nation.  But this transition away from Indonesian rule was anything but smooth.

Tormented by militia-led violence and ethnic tensions, the United Nations (UN) called upon Australian troops and police to help administer the fledgling nation through the transition period until Timor-Leste became an independent nation on 20 May 2002.

The UN then set up the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (or UNMIT) to support the viability and political stability of the world's newest nation.

This mission still continues today, with the AFP providing 50 officers to help with all levels of policing and to support the nation's rebuilding process.

Read more information on International Deployment Group