Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Police smash £3m-a-year drug ring

Police officers raid a cannabis factory in east Kent as part of a crackdown on a professional criminal network

Police have smashed an alleged professional criminal network capable of generating drugs worth more than £3 million a year as part of a day-long crackdown.

An organised crime group suspected of involvement in producing and supplying drugs, mainly cannabis, on a huge scale was identified in east Kent, officers said.

Police chiefs said the gang's ill-gotten gains gave them lavish lifestyles well beyond their means, and that the operation had struck a blow at the top of the hierarchy.

More than 70 officers conducted a series of dawn raids at eight commercial and residential properties in Thanet, Herne Bay and Ashford.

Four people - three men aged 38, 48 and 35 and a 40-year-old woman - have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to produce controlled drugs.

At a large rural property in Hastingleigh, near Ashford, search teams found a sophisticated hydroponic cannabis factory with cannabis plants in different stages of maturity.

Kent Police said they believed the professional set-up could have been capable of generating more than £3 million a year once fully up and running.

Seven vehicles, including a luxury Aston Martin DB9 believed to be worth around £40,000, were seized, along with computers, mobile phones and around £4,000 in cash.

Chief Superintendent Mark Nottage, of Kent Police, said: "We had identified a sophisticated organised crime group working in the east of the county who were living lavish lifestyles on the proceeds of drug crime.

"These are people concerned in the production and supply of drugs, particularly cannabis, on a massive scale. The money they made was used to fuel an extravagant way of living well beyond their normal means."

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