‘Discovering An Operation On This Scale Is Unique’

Discovering an operation on this scale is unique

North West Evening Mail
Published on 26/10/2007

THESE are the photographs which will shock residents of a quiet, leafy Barrow suburb.

They show hundreds of luscious green cannabis plants and the equipment used to cultivate them. Illegal immigrants were forced to work as gardeners for Vietnamese crime bosses to pay off crippling debts.

For months families went about their innocent, everyday business unaware that behind the curtains of number 12 Holbeck Road, a slick operation was underway producing the Class C drug.

Its a lucrative underground business that could rake in up to 350,000-a-year per property.

Image conscious women would chat about their plans for the weekend, not knowing that American Nails on Rawlinson Street, Barrow, was the front for a thriving illegal drugs operation.

The manicurist illegal immigrant Hong Mai Thi Le put down her files and polish as the shop shut and headed 100 metres down the road to a red boarded up house on Rawlinson Street to care for her bosses plants.

The nail bar shut up shop after the building became unsafe and the operation headed for the cover of suburbia.

Neighbours eventually became suspicious over the activities at the house on the Holbeck estate and the letting agency were contacted.

A key holder visited and was shocked to find no furniture had been damaged but that the property had been turned into a huge greenhouse packed with illegal drugs.

The police were called in.

Detective Constable Steve Hodgson says he has never come across such a professional operation.

Walls were covered in silver foil to retain heat and reflect light, ventilation pipes had been installed to pump out noxious gases and dozens of heat lamps helped create perfect conditions for the 400 cannabis plants.

The electricity meter had been by-passed so no power surge could be spotted and they could evade stumping up the 27,000 in electricity it would cost a year to keep the farm running.

DC Hodgson said if they hadnt been caught they would have had four crops of 400 plants netting the drug dealers anything from 200,000 to 350,000-a-year just from the one property.

He said: Discovering an operation on this scale around here is unique. People converting a whole house into a cannabis factory.

We very rarely deal with people who make a living out of crime in this way in south Cumbria.

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