High crimes: Britain's cannabis farms
London (AFP) –
A derelict hospital, dog kennels, abandoned warehouses, suburban homes and buried shipping containers -- cannabis farms dot Britain, often staffed by Vietnamese migrants-turned-growers.
Some have been smuggled in voluntarily, others trafficked against their will.
Here are a few high-profile busts involving Vietnamese migrants.
- Bunker turned weed farm -
When police smashed through the padlocked doors of a former nuclear bunker in Wiltshire in 2017 they found three Vietnamese growers and thousands of cannabis plants.
More than 20 rooms in the World War II era bunker were used to grow weed by the migrants -- suspected to have been trafficked -- who spoke little English and had been locked in the site.
More than $800,000 worth of electricity had been illegally siphoned off to power the massive underground factory that cops said was capable of producing nearly $2.5 million in weed yearly.
Three men were jailed for running the cannabis farm, which police were alerted to when dog-walking neighbours said they smelled something awry.
The growers were later deported from Vietnam, having declined to claim asylum, according to British media reports.
- Duffel bag of bills -
A duffel bag stuffed with £75,000 ($93,000) in cash was among the evidence police recovered when they busted a Vietnamese cannabis syndicate in Lancashire last year.
They also found several houses converted into grow-ops plants valued at £80,000 and a handful of Vietnamese suspects, including ringleader Jack Nguyen, who was charged with conspiracy to produce cannabis and money laundering.
Syndicate bosses posed as expectant parents to rent houses, and police unearthed cellphone video of a baby cradling wads of cash, according to media.
When the investigation was over police uncovered more than 21 house, confiscated over $300,000 in cash and convicted 16 Vietnamese suspects.
- Stuffed in a suitcase -
The case of the 16-year-old Vietnamese boy found stuffed in a suitcase in the back of a van in Dover last year laid bare the dangers facing migrants sneaking into the UK.
Phong was discovered with life-threatening injuries in the trunk of a car chauffeured by a Romanian man who was later jailed for 18 months.
The teen was rescued by British authorities.
He has since been placed in foster care and has a bedroom "for the first time", Phong, now 17, wrote in a letter addressed to the English public.
"Now I have a mum, brother, sister... Thank you everyone for helping me with English and myself."
It was not clear if Phong was destined to work on a cannabis farm, though growing weed is the top job for young Vietnamese males smuggled into Britain.
- Body dumped -
The body of a 41-year-old suspected Vietnamese cannabis worker was found on a mountainside near a golf course in Wales with two bags of clothes and documents in 2016 -- discovered by a man looking for a spot to bury his cat.
One of the bags smelled of weed and contained notes detailing cannabis growing equipment, British media reported.
Police said the man was believed to have died in a cannabis farm before his body was dumped, possibly after dying from electrocution.
© 2019 AFP