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A new post combating an ever-evolving threat

AFP Senior Liaison Office (SLO) Conrad Jensen has put his hand up to assist Mexican law enforcement disrupt some of the most violent drug cartels in the world.

Since October last year he has led the AFP's international liaison office in Mexico, establishing a post to enhance law enforcement cooperation and intelligence sharing between Australia and Mexico, primarily to counter the supply of cocaine and methamphetamines (meth) to Australia.

"The AFP is working closely with Central American law enforcement to be part of a solution to what is a very complex problem," SLO Jensen said.

"In Mexico we're partnering with the Mexican Federal Police, the Attorney General's Office of Mexico (PGR) and other agencies to share intelligence on the organised crime threat."

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports Mexico is one of the top 10 embarkation points by weight for amphetamine-type stimulants, a relatively new development for a country known for criminal groups that export cocaine. Mexico is listed as fifth.

A man in a suit standing next to a boardroom table
AFP Senior Liaison Officer Conrad Jensen in the Mexican Federal Police "intelligence bunker".

Earlier in November 2017, a 34-year-old Mexican man arriving into Melbourne on a flight from Los Angeles was stopped after a small quantity of cocaine was found in his possession. He was detained and the Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce began an investigation. Police enquiries led to the seizure of 300-kilograms of cocaine from a business premises in Altona, Victoria, and the arrest of another Mexican national.

Mexico city
Zócalo, Mexico City.

But who is behind the supply of illicit drugs in Mexico? The Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) and the Sinaloa Cartel are two of the largest in an ever-evolving list of Mexican organised crime groups. The CJNG began in 2007 as an armed wing of the Sinaloa Cartel and became independent in 2010. Led by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias "El Mencho", the CJNG is known as the most violent criminal group in Mexico.

"The CJNG and the other Mexican cartels are a global problem which needs worldwide cooperation. We are working to infiltrate these organisations and disrupt their criminal activities," SLO Jensen said.

"Meth is not a just a policing problem – it is an attack on our society, both here in Mexico and back home, which is destroying individuals, families and communities."

The global focus on meth prompted 60 Minutes reporter Tom Steinfort to travel to Mexico City in March to meet with Conrad Jensen and to see the capabilities of the Mexican Federal Police.

A man in a suit standing in a building foyer
AFP Senior Liaison Officer Conrad Jensen regularly meets with his Mexican Federal Police counterparts in the Constituyentes facility.

60 Minutes was provided rare access by the Mexican Federal Police to two facilities in Mexico City. The first was located in the Constituyentes area where the organisation's headquarters and forensic facility is located. The compound also houses a high-tech "intelligence bunker" from where Mexican law enforcement support operational activity across the country through air and sea surveillance.

A female in a white jumpsuit with multiple reconstructed faces for forensic use
A forensics officer reconstructs the faces of unidentified murder victims in the Mexican Federal Police forensics facility.

The second was the Contel Facility where the 60 Minutes/AFP film crew were provided displays from canine, riot police, tactical response and hostage rescue teams.

Three tactical response officers with a large tactical vehicle
Mexican Federal Police tactical response demonstrates capability.
A squad of multiple riot police with shields
Mexican Federal Police demonstrates its all-female riot police team in action.

The Contel Facility is the largest policing facility in Mexico City. It houses a large number of specialist units from the Federal Forces and Gendarmerie Divisions. It also has a large helicopter facility, training bases and a memorial to their fallen police officers.

At the Contel Facility, the Mexican Federal Police Commissioner Manelich Castilla Craviotto told 60 Minutes law enforcement has the determination to tackle the drug supply issue in Mexico.

"Every policeman feels fear. It is fear that allows us to be alert. The right fear is an ally to police work, and of course we are afraid. But our conviction in the face of this problem is much greater. Fear will never be greater than our conviction," Commissioner Craviotto said.

A uniformed officer being interview by a man sitting opposite him
60 Minutes reporter Tom Steinfort interviews Mexican Federal Police Commissioner Manelich Castilla Craviotto.

60 Minutes, closely escorted by the Mexican Federal Police, also gained rare access to the cartel heartlands of Michoacán and Jalisco. They met in the picturesque main square of Morelia with Anti-Drugs Head Juan Silva who in Spanish outlined the work being done to stem the production of illicit drugs.

Two men walking and talking
60 Minutes reporter Tom Steinfort interviews Mexican Federal Police Anti-Drugs Head Juan Silva in Morelia.

The film crew then moved to a former monastery in Morelia where Tom Steinfort asked SLO Jensen why the AFP feels it is important to have a presence in Mexico.

"Meth is a problem in Australia and if we're not here we are not part of the solution. [As a police officer] I've seen the impact meth has on the Australian community, people overdosing and the violence that flows and I'd be surprised if there are that many people in Australia that haven't seen the impact," SLO Jensen said.

"It's an insidious drug, very addictive; people become violent and commit other crimes to service their addiction."

A man being interview by another man sitting opposite him
AFP Senior Liaison Officer Conrad Jensen speaks with 60 Minutes in a former monastery in Morelia.

In late February, two women were arrested in Sydney for their alleged involvement in importing 24 kilograms of methamphetamine (meth) hidden inside home audio speakers. The drugs had an estimated street value of $20.7 million and one of the women is facing offences that could see her spend her life behind bars.

A sample of meth
A sample of the 24 kilograms of meth imported from Mexico inside home audio speakers.

Australian drug busts from Mexico

60 Minutes also interviewed AFP Deputy Commissioner Operations Neil Gaughan on the issue of demand of these dangerous drugs.

"Meth consumption in this country is significant – the second highest in the OECD world – and unless we try and do something to stem the demand issue, regardless what we do around supply, we're going to continue to have issues in this country," Deputy Commissioner Gaughan said.

The AFP continues to see a significant number of seizures of meth coming to Australia from Mexico, with links to Australian outlaw motorcycle gangs and West African organised crime.

You can view the full 60 Minutes story online.