10 May 2015
by Eamonn Duff
Undercoverman Man Slams AFP Drug Sting
Before the Bali nine's arrest, Mick Keelty and the AFP sent a furniture salesman on a secret high-risk drug sting in Indonesia
International drug dealers approached furniture importer 'John Mansfield' about using his containers to smuggle millions of dollars worth of ephedrine into Australia.
A furniture importer has revealed how the Australian Federal Police abandoned him in Indonesia after convincing him to go undercover in a high-risk sting targeting an international drug-smuggling syndicate.
Before its role in the arrests of the Bali nine in Indonesia, the AFP persuaded John Mansfield* to become the sole civilian participant in a "controlled operation" that was authorised in writing by then commissioner Mick Keelty. The aim of the covert mission was to travel undercover to Indonesia and bring down a drug-trafficking cartel. But what followed was a bungled exercise that left an ordinary Australian citizen at the mercy of a dangerous and "increasingly paranoid" police target, while in possession of a million-dollar consignment of illegal drugs in a country that applies the death penalty.
Mr Mansfield said: "At the beginning, they told me my safety was paramount and I would receive the same high-level protection that is afforded to their own officers. But what they actually did was expose me to their own inefficiencies ... they left me high and dry in a foreign land. They treated me like a throw-away."
Former federal police commissioner Mick Keelty.
In 2002, a drug figure approached Mr Mansfield with a plan to use his sea containers to smuggle large scale quantities of ephedrine – a vital precursor chemical in amphetamines – into Australia.
He reported it to the Northern Territory Police. They forwarded the intelligence on to the AFP who, headed by the same leadership involved in the Bali Nine's fate, convinced Mr Mansfield to be the frontman in a major sting.
"They asked: 'will you go ahead with it?' I said 'yes' because it was the AFP. It became the single most stupid mistake of my life."
In official AFP documents, Mr Mansfield became known as "Human Source 50560".
He said: "During the operation's early stages in Darwin, they would meet me in public parking lots at midnight. They provided me with old cars and had me drive different routes to the police station where, occasionally, I was wired up. It was like something out of the movies ... yet I felt from the start that I was dealing with individuals who were making it up as they went along."
The AFP files confirm that, on August 27 that year, a Sydney-based bouncer, Adam Mathew Blake, flew to Indonesia and purchased 20 kilograms of ephedrine. After crushing those drugs down into powder, he delivered the consignment to Mr Mansfield who had taken up position in an apartment in Yogyakarta.
What the AFP documents don't state is that in the crucial days leading up to the container's departure, the furniture salesman was left stranded with two barrels of illicit drugs in his lounge room and an erratic criminal figure, often high on drugs, shadowing his every move.
"The day before the shipment was due to leave, we were at a cafe in a tourist precinct ... and he spotted what he thought was someone photographing us," said Mr Mansfield. "He accused me of engineering a set-up. He wanted to kill me. I thought I was going to die."
The same day, Mr Mansfield received a bombshell from the Jakarta-based AFP officer with whom he had been liaising by phone almost daily.
"The plan had been for him to fly to Yogyakarta and observe events on the day the container was to be packed, in case anything went wrong for me. But he called and said words to the effect of, 'I am sorry. Something has come up, I can't get there'.
Mr Mansfield described his anguish as two huge plastic barrels of white powder, sealed with glue, were later loaded alongside the wooden furniture on board his container. "The AFP had left me alone to tie up loose ends. The madman who had threatened to murder me 24 hours earlier was watching my every move from a nearby car. I was anxious and on the brink of unravelling ... the police even had me take incriminating photos of the drugs, as evidence, and bring those back through customs ... with no support whatsoever at the airport."
Mr Mansfield confirms that despite a substantial deposit paid by the syndicate when he returned to Australia, nobody stepped forward to collect the drugs once they had docked. And while Blake later pleaded guilty to importing them and in 2003 served a six-month jail term, nobody else was brought to justice. In 2005, a Northern Territory Supreme Court acquitted a Darwin man of being the mastermind behind the operation. The AFP claimed Phillip Douglas Primmer had hired Blake to import the drugs from Indonesia. But after a trial that featured three weeks of evidence and 10 witnesses, a jury found Mr Primmer not guilty.
"I received no thank you. No apology. There was no debriefing. The AFP didn't even protect me in court," said Mr Mansfield, who points out that after being publicly "identified and outed" as an informant and witness in Blake's trial, he was threatened again, and had to flee interstate.
He points out that before Blake's court case, nothing had existed in writing – except reams of emails linking him to underworld figures and a pending drug deal. "The AFP exposed the Bali Nine to the death penalty. Had I been caught with those drugs in Indonesia, I firmly believe they would have cut me loose too."
An AFP spokesperson said the investigation and involvement of the civilian had been supported by the Indonesian National Police as it "progressed."
She confirmed the AFP's Senior Liaison Officer had not made it to Yogjakarta during operational activity as planned because "competing priorities demanded his presence elsewhere". "The risk to the man...was assessed and considered to be low," she said.
She said AFP records show the civilian gave "consent" to his identity being made public in later court proceedings.
While the AFP's professional standards area received a complaint in late 2005 about AFP members involved in the case, it was "fully and independently investigated and all of the allegations were unsubstantiated."