Belfast Telegraph

Cannabis worth £3m is seized

Suspected herbal cannabis worth almost £3m was seized after police uncovered a drug growing operation in Co Armagh, the High Court heard.

Hundreds of plants and more than a thousand stocks were discovered in an alleged factory fully kitted out with lights and production equipment.

Details were disclosed as bail was granted to a Chinese man facing a series of Class B drug-related offences.

Zhadjin Zhong (41) of Lakelands, Craigavon, is charged with possession with intent to supply, cultivating and being concerned in the production and supply of cannabis.

When arrested along with two co-accused near his home address on October 18, he was carrying more than £3,700 in cash, prosecutors said.

A car registered to Zhong led police to search another house at Hanover Street, Portadown, where drugs and more money was found.

Equipment believed to be for use in more than one factory was also discovered, along with two suitcases containing vacuum bags.

During that search an inventory of items for building and maintaining drug-growing operations was also seized.

Kate McKay, prosecuting, said a bundle of mail addressed to a property at Thomas Street, Portadown was recovered too.

At that location 310 plants were growing in a bedroom.

Another three rooms were kitted out as well, with 1,080 stocks, pots and compost all found in the search.

According to Ms McKay, the estimated street value of the herbal cannabis was £2.8m.

Opposing Zhong's application for bail, she said police suspected he and his co-accused were involved in a drug cultivation and supply operation.

It was claimed he may flee the country if released because he has no real ties to Northern Ireland.

But Sean Devine, defending, said his client has worked at a restaurant in Armagh for five years.

Even though Zhong was said to be a failed asylum seeker, Mr Devine contended: "It's not the classic case where they just seem to have ghosted in and are found.

"This applicant was here for a prolonged period and enjoys some roots in the community."

Mr Justice Weatherup commented that, for a restaurant worker, a very large amount of money was found on Zhong.

But he ruled that the accused could be granted bail on condition that £4,000 is lodged in court and another £10,000 surety is obtained.

Zhong was ordered to live at an address in Armagh, curfewed and told to report to police daily.

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