Mexican Cartels Do Big Business in Australian Methamphetamine Trade

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A third of the methylamphetamine consumed in Australia is thought to come from Mexico.

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“The lab, near Culiacan, has been estimated to produce around 20 tonnes of methamphetamine per month. Compare that to Australia’s wastewater analysis which suggests Australians use around 10 tonnes of methamphetamine per year,” he said. said Detective Superintendent Jensen.

“It’s just one of the dozen labs that we see this way.”

Methylamphetamine, more commonly known as “ice”, is the most widely consumed illicit substance in Australia, far exceeding cocaine, heroin and MDMA.

As of August 2018, the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program found that Australians had consumed over 9.8 tonnes of the drug, an increase of over one tonne from the previous year.

Meanwhile, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission estimates the country spent $ 9.3 billion on illicit drugs in 2018.

Australian demand for ice cream and growing supply from Mexico prompted the creation of the AFP post in Mexico City, a role Detective Superintendent Jensen has held since it opened in 2017.

“We have seen a shift in the drug trade from Mexico over the past two or three years. We have certainly seen a huge increase in the amount of methamphetamine coming into the Australian market.”

He pointed to the largest methamphetamine seizure ever in the United States in January last year, when 1.7 tonnes of ice was intercepted in shipping containers in Los Angeles, bound for Australia. The amount seized was equivalent to 17 million street drug deals valued at $ 1.29 billion.

“That gives you an idea of ​​what we’re dealing with… the cartels are diversifying their activities, and part of that turns to synthetic drugs like methamphetamine that they can produce in Mexico,” [unlike] cocaine is only produced from coca leaves in South America, ”he said.

“Typically, the bulk of the precursor chemicals used in manufacturing will come from Asia because their source is cheaper.”

A shipment of more than 1.7 tonnes of methyl amphetamine seized in the United States last year.Credit:AFP

He added that the Mexican method used to make methylamphetamine generally produces methamphetamine considered to be “of better quality” than that coming from Asia, a major factor in the “supply and demand” of drugs in the region.

Three states along Mexico’s Pacific have seen greater targeting of drug labs in recent years: Sinaloa, Gurreiro, and Michoacan, all of which are close to some of the country’s largest shipping ports and trade routes. .

While most of the methylamphetamine in Australia is trafficked in commercial shipping, there is no direct transport between Mexico and Australia. Thus, illicit substances will always reach local shores via Asia or the United States, as was the intention for the 1.7 tonnes seized in California in January.

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Around 7,000,000 sea containers pass through Australian docks every year.

Detective Superintendent Jensen said there was no doubt that the Mexican cartels had their sights set on Australia, where high drug prices made the long and difficult journey worth it.

“Their model in markets like Australia is to work in cooperation with [local] drug groups who are the experts in distribution, ”he said.

This means outlawing motorcycle gangs and other criminal groups who are “experts in distributing any type of drug in major cities in Australia”.

“You have strong cartels in this part of the world and they have to develop these markets by talking to criminal groups,” he said.

“It’s like any other type of international trade going on.”

More than 1.5 tonnes of ice was seized in Melbourne in early December and three people have been charged. The loot, which was discovered in stereo speakers originating in Thailand, is the largest land-based methamphetamine seizure ever in Australia, worth more than $ 1 billion.

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