Co Down restaurant owner accused of operating cannabis factory is refused bail
Published 19/11/2013 | 19:26
A village restaurant owner accused of operating a £500,000 cannabis factory above his premises was refused bail today.
Phat Suong Chim mounted a new bid to be released after a chef allegedly involved in growing the drugs was let out of custody.
But a High Court judge denied his application, citing his alleged organisational role.
Police are linking the seizure in Greyabbey, Co Down to a Vietnamese crime organisation operating across the UK, prosecutors said.
Chim, 48, of Main Street in the village, denies charges of cultivating cannabis and possession with intent to supply.
He was arrested after police uncovered a large-scale growing operation in rooms above the New White Satin restaurant on August 23.
Plants, at various stages of growth and with an estimated street value of up to £500,000 were seized.
According to the prosecution a sophisticated extraction system was used to stop any smell coming from the factory.
Another man and a woman have also been charged in connection with the drugs haul.
Chim sought bail after co-accused Dat Chung Duong, 62, of Stevenson Park, Lurgan, was released last week.
Defence counsel argued that he had no access to the rooms above the restaurant after a tenant moved in and changed the locks.
The barrister also contended there was no risk of Chim fleeing.
Originally from Vietnam, the accused is now a British citizen who has lived in the UK for more than 20 years.
He moved to Northern Ireland from Birmingham earlier this year, the court heard.
But refusing bail, Mr Justice Horner said: "Prima facie it does appear this applicant was involved as an organiser in a criminal gang cultivating cannabis on an industrial scale in Greyabbey."