PRESTON — A gang of Vietnamese nationals have been jailed for a total of 37 years after police smashed a sophisticated cannabis ring operating in the United Kingdom.
In total, detectives recovered more than 2,300 plants grown in 18 non-descript looking houses all across the north-west of England.
If broken down, the drugs were worth more US$1.2 million (VNĐ 29 billion) on the street.
A judge at Preston Crown Court sentenced most of the gang this week. Others had been jailed at earlier hearings.
The court heard some of the cannabis farmers had been working to repay debts to people who had smuggled them into the UK.
One claimed he had gained entry into the country by hiding in the back of a refrigeration unit in a container lorry – the same method used which led to the deaths of 39 Vietnamese nationals last month.
Four men – Quan Dang, 32, Hung Pham, 29, Tran Hung, 36, and Vo Duc, 20 – were jailed for between 31 and 48 months, for their roles supporting the network. A fifth defendant, Quang Ngo, 44, will be sentenced in December after a trial of issue.
Judge Robert Altham, sentencing the quartet, said: "This was the production of cannabis on an industrial scale, a sophisticated set-up which was well-capitalised."
Duc was caught looking after 122 plants at a house in Bolton when police raided the property and confessed he had been performing that role for two months.
The ringleaders, Thanh Nguyen, 20, Dung Pham, 28, and Tung Pham, 26, who arranged for growing equipment to be installed at the properties, were jailed for between 54 months and six years at a previous hearing. Tung's partner Nga Pham was also jailed for 54 months.
Also at an earlier hearing, Quy Nguyen, 57, and Tan Vo, 55, were jailed for two years each.
Det Sgt Stu Peall, of Lancashire Police's human trafficking team, said: "I welcome these sentences which reflect the serious nature of the offences.
“This was a sophisticated organised criminal group making huge amounts of money from their operation.
“Lancashire Constabulary will continue to proactively target the production of cannabis which can have lasting physical and mental health effects on users as well as having a negative effect on our communities and fuelling other crime and we are determined to tackle that.
“We need the public to continue to work with us to help us tackle drug crime by informing us of any suspicious activity.” — VNS