UK: Gang Of MJ Growers Busted

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A PLUMSTEAD man is on trial accused of being part of a gang of cannabis farmers who converted four homes into state-of-the-art factories producing bumper crops.

Tuan Nguyen, 29, of Plumstead High Street appeared at Southwark Crown Court on Friday with four other Vietnamese men. The court heard the gang boosted profits by powering its suburban farms with stolen electricity.

The homes, including one in Wricklemarsh Road, Blackheath, were equipped with hi-tech hydroponics systems that yielded harvests of 40kg - worth £120,000 - every six weeks. Special light bulbs, air filters and extractor fans were powered with energy stolen through the main street cables.

Electrical expert Peter Scripts showed jurors images from one of the factories in Langton Avenue in East Ham.

He said: "They have diverted the wires away from the meter so nobody would know how much electricity they were using."

He added it was a procedure in which they would have been "risking life and limb". Although unable to determine exactly how much power was stolen, investigators believe it could have been hundreds of thousands of kilo-watts. Son Nguyen, 33, from Islington who was not in court, has been accused of masterminding the operation.

The other suspects Ha Trinh, 37, of no fixed address; Thanh Nguyen, 31, of Leyton; Mai Dang 28, of no fixed address; Hung Tran, 27, of Romford, and Tuan Nguyen all denied one charge of conspiracy to cultivate cannabis between January 1, 2003, and June 8 last year.

The court heard how police surveillance experts watched the suspects in an operation code-named Scorpion and used thermal imaging cameras from helicopters to locate the houses. Cops were said to have observed them collecting laundry bags bulging with cannabis and buying electrical equipment. When officers raided the four houses on June 8 last year they discovered a total of 5,905 plants. The other two houses were in Bromhall Road and Irons Way in Romford. A fifth house in Rainham Road, Romford, was in the process of being converted. Some of the suspects were said to have bundles of cash on them when they were arrested and allegedly told police they thought the plants were legal and for use in Chinese medicine.

Author:Greenwich Mercury
Date:Apr 13 2005
Source:Greenwich Mercury
Copyright:© owned by or licensed to Trinity Mirror Plc 2005
 
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