Belfast Telegraph

Man allegedly involved in cannabis operation 'won thousands of pounds as professional poker player'

A man allegedly involved in an industrial-scale cannabis growing operation won hundreds of thousands of pounds as a professional poker player, the High Court heard today.

Luong Bui amassed the earnings at tournaments on the gambling circuit, his lawyer claimed.

The explanation was given for a £50,000 cash bundle seized from his partner's home in Dromore, Co Down.

Police searched the address last week after earlier uncovering a suspected cannabis-growing house in Lisburn.

Vietnamese-born Bui, 36, of The Abbey, Clane, Co Kildare, faces charges of cultivating cannabis and possession of criminal property.

He was refused bail due to the perceived risks that he may flee or re-offend.

The alleged drug-growing racket was uncovered back in September when officers discovered a property at Skyline Gardens, Lisburn kitted out with special heat lamps and a ventilation system.

A fingerprint found at the scene led them to the Dromore address on November 29.

Computers, a small amount of herbal cannabis and £50,000, mostly in £20 notes, were seized.

Bui claimed some of the cash belonged to his horticulture business and the rest was his.

Defence counsel Kevin Magill told the court: "He had previously been a poker player playing on the professional poker circuit.

"He wasn't betting online, he was betting at live poker games and went to a number of tournaments."

At one stage an American poker website reported his winnings at $300,000 (dollars), well over £200,000, the court heard.

"He would say he's well known on the circuit," Mr Magill added.

Bui has lived in UK since childhood and only moved to the Republic to set up his business, according to his defence.

Mr Magill said his client now intends to sell off all remaining stock, pay his debts and wind up the company.

The judge was told the only evidence linking him to the cannabis-growing house is a fingerprint which could have an innocent explanation.

But Mr Justice Horner ruled that it was too soon to consider releasing the accused while inquiries continue.

Refusing bail, he said: "There's also the explanation offered as to the provenance of the cash - that does not seem to have been checked out.

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