Illegal gardener jailed for 'enormous' cannabis haul in WA big enough to fill shipping container – ABC News

Updated October 30, 2019 15:54:27

A Vietnamese man has been sentenced to seven years in jail for growing one of the biggest marijuana crops ever discovered in Western Australia.

Key points:

  • The drugs, found on a property near Gingin, were worth more than $17m
  • The police raid recovered enough cannabis to fill a 12-metre shipping container
  • The man arrived in Australia in 2012 on a student visa, which had since expired

Nam Van Truong was sentenced in the Perth District Court after earlier pleading guilty to possessing the drug with intent to sell or supply.

The drugs had an estimated street value of more than $17 million.

When police raided Truong’s rented rural property near Gingin, north of Perth last year, they found enough cannabis plants to fill a 12-metre shipping container.

A total of 7,567 plants were growing in 14 commercial-scale greenhouses on the 19-hectare property in Red Gully.

At the time, WA Police Senior Sergeant Michael Rowson said he had „never seen anything like it” and said he suspected the crop was linked to organised crime.

Gardener’s visa had expired

Truong’s lawyer Alix McGregor said her client had been working as a gardener on the property and was only paid $1,800 over seven months to cultivate the crop.

He had arrived in Australia from Vietnam in 2012 on a student visa, which had since expired, and had moved to Perth in 2016 after working as a handyman in Queensland.

He was initially employed at the Red Gully property to build greenhouses for cucumbers after meeting a man in a restaurant in Perth in early 2018, the court was told.

He later had responsibility for looking after the cannabis crop and watching over the lighting.

Truong was arrested at Perth Airport trying to board a flight to Adelaide after police raided the property in October last year.

But Judge Simon Stone said he did not accept Truong was merely the gardener at what was the biggest hydroponic cannabis operation ever uncovered in the state.

He said Truong had been entrusted to use cash to buy a $17,000 generator for the cannabis operation, which he had done so using a false name, and had also leased the property, again using a false name.

The owner of the property had been led to understood it would be used to grow strawberries, cucumbers and other produce under contract to Woolworths.

„Whilst he may be a hired hand, he was hired by a sophisticated criminal enterprise to play a very significant role in their cultivation of a multi-million-dollar operation,” he said.

„I do not accept that he was just the gardener.

„This is one of the most sophisticated hydro set ups that I’ve seen as a judge. It was an enormous drug enterprise.”

Significant jail term needed: judge

Judge Stone said Truong played a „significant and integral part in this commercial enterprise” and was close to the „upper echelons” of the project, having been involved from its inception.

He said he did not accept that Truong would only be paid $1,800 for his high-level role in such a sophisticated set-up.

He acknowledged Truong had demonstrated remorse in pleading guilty at the first opportunity and also that he had no previous convictions.

But Judge Stone said he needed to impose a significant term of imprisonment, given Truong’s leading role.

„Drugs and cannabis cause a significant amount of misery in the community and crime,” he said.

„Millions of dollars were involved [in this operation] and a significant quantity of cannabis would have been distributed into the community were it not for the actions of police.”

Ms McGregor said her client, who relied on a translator in court, was remorseful and had apologised on numerous occasions for his role in the enterprise.

Topics: courts-and-trials, drug-offences, perth-6000, gingin-6503, wa

First posted October 30, 2019 15:07:59

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