Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Man accused of running £600,000 cannabis operation remanded in custody

By Alan Erwin

The alleged head of a cannabis growing operation worth in excess of £600,000 must remain in custody, a High Court judge has ruled.

Luong Bui, 41, is accused of running factories across Northern Ireland - including one discovered at a warehouse with living quarters for those growing plants.

Refusing him bail, Mr Justice Maguire rejected any suggestion of delays in the case.

Bui, originally from Vietnam but now a British citizen, faces charges of conspiracy to supply and produce Class B drugs, being concerned it their production, possessing criminal property, dishonestly using electricity, and assisting unlawful immigration.

The alleged offences were committed between April 1 and December 5 last year, when police raided an industrial unit on the Glen Road in Comber, Co Down.

A previous court heard the warehouse had been divided into 10 rooms split over two floors.

Officers seized 1,200 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of £600,000.

Two other men were spotted on the premises, although one of them managed to escape.

The second man was detained and told police he had travelled with others in the back of a lorry from Vietnam to the United Kingdom.

He then claimed that he was flown from England to Northern Ireland before being driven to the warehouse.

The man said he had been there for about a month and a half, that he received instructions on how to care for the plants and that he resided in living quarters within the factory, according to the prosecution.

Other, smaller-scale cannabis-growing facilities were uncovered at residential properties in the Four Winds area of Belfast and Coalisland, Co Tyrone.

Bui, of Lisburn Road in Belfast, is allegedly linked to the factories by CCTV surveillance evidence and fingerprints found on a tenancy agreement.

He was said to have been located during searches carried out the same day at his home.

It was claimed that he tried to dump three mobile phones in a toilet cistern as police entered the property.

Opposing bail at an earlier hearing, a Crown lawyer contended that Bui heads an organisation linked to a high-end crime gang operating on both sides of the Irish border.

Defence counsel argued that his client runs a horticultural supplies business which legitimately provides equipment such as plant pots, carbon filters and soil found at the Comber warehouse.

He mounted a fresh bid for bail based on the time taken to progress the case.

But rejecting the application, Mr Justice Maguire said: "The fact that five months has expired at this point doesn't create the momentum where the court would deviate from the normal approach of seeking to ensure the protection of the public from those who may be engaged in serious and organised drug activity."

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