Ten held in $38m dope farms bust

Local | Staff reporter 18 May 2017

Police have made Hong Kong's biggest seizure of cannabis plants in 27 years after raiding two factories that were turned into indoor marijuana farms.

Ten Vietnamese were arrested, with six of them being illegal immigrants employed specially to plant and to look after the illicit trade.

The consignment is estimated to have a street value of HK$38 million, according to the police.

Narcotics Bureau officers on Tuesday raided the two industrial building units in Tuen Mun and Yau Tong. The units were turned into marijuana farms, in which were found 164 kilograms of the drugs - 2,004 cannabis plants and 24kg of marijuana products. Farming and packing tools were also found.

Of the arrested, aged between 26 and 54, six men were illegal immigrants and four, including two women, are Hong Kong identity card holders. The four are the masterminds and police said they were father and son and their spouses.

Superintendent Ng Wing-sze of the Narcotics Bureau said each of the factories was guarded by three illegal immigrants round the clock.

"They were not allowed to leave the unit, staying there all the time to look after and farm the cannabis. They also lived there and hygiene was poor," said Ng, adding that the unit was also equipped with simple bedding, cooking ware and a fridge with meat and fruits. The illegal workers earned about HK$5,100 a month and the masterminds send their pay back to Vietnam for their families.

The Financial Investigations Division froze the suspects' HK$7.3 million worth of asset. Acting superintendent Lam Wing-ho said this includes HK$600,000 from six bank accounts and HK$4.43 million in cash and HK$80,000 worth of jewelry found in the homes of the masterminds.

The suspects also held two safety deposit boxes at a bank, in which they stored HK$2.18 million in cash and jewelry worth HK$28,000.

This is the biggest marijuana farming case since 1990. Police said the two indoor farms - between 2,000 square feet and 3,000 sq ft in size - had been operating for about half a year.

It is understood the masterminds rented the unit from a sub-landlord and police are investigating if the sub- landlord is linked with the syndicates.

Officers are also probing whether the six illegal immigrants were forced to come to Hong Kong and the sales outlet of the marijuana.

Ng said the two farms posed fire risks to the neighborhoods, as the syndicate blocked the windows with planks and aluminum foil, set up sunlamps in the units and built ventilators in the narrow hallway and used a large amount of wires and transformers.

Police urged members of the public to come forward if they find suspicious conditions near where they live or at industrial buildings, such as special smell, people moving soil in bulk and the installation of a large amount of air- conditioning compartments.

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