Three Asian cannabis “gardeners” who between them were looking after more than half a million pounds worth of plants in four separate drug factories in Belfast have been jailed for a total of seven-and-a-half years.
Jailing illegal immigrants 24-year-old A Jie Fang, Yu Cheng Weng (30) and Wen Zheng (26) for two-and-a-half years each, Belfast Crown Court Judge Tom Burgess said he accepted they had all been used by the gang who would have profited from the drugs, “nevertheless they're very valuable to these other people, not least in preventing the police from catching them”.
Earlier he heard that in May and June last year, drugs squad officers raided houses in Haypark Avenue, Florenceville Avenue, Brookhill Avenue and Candahar Street and uncovered what was described as “sophisticated” cannabis growing factories.
Prosecution lawyer Kate McKay said that in each of the properties, the bedrooms had all been adapted in such a way as to grow the then class C plants and that equipment included heat lamps, extractor fans, reflective sheeting and transformers with a total of 1,109 plants in various stages of maturity being found.
In one of the houses, said the lawyer, Northern Ireland Electricity confirmed that the supply had been illegally bypassed.
She said that all three, as well as 45-year-old Hang Yu who has already been dealt with, were arrested in the Florenceville Avenue property when officers saw them coming downstairs with their hands covered in soil.