Hong Kong police make biggest seizure of cannabis plants since at least 1990

Officers made the seizures in factory units in Tuen Mun and Yau Tong, arresting eight men and two women of Vietnamese origin including six illegal immigrants

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 May, 2017, 3:48pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 May, 2017, 10:45pm

Hong Kong police have made their biggest seizure of cannabis plants since at least 1990 during raids on two factory units that were turned into indoor marijuana farms.

More than 2,000 marijuana plants and 24kg of herbal cannabis with an estimated street value of HK$38 million were confiscated in the two greenhouses in Tuen Mun and Yau Tong.

Officers arrested 10 people of Vietnamese origin during the operation codenamed “Goldenarm”, which was mounted on Tuesday.

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According to police, the eight men and two women, aged between 26 and 54, included two suspected ringleaders – a father and son holding Hong Kong identity cards. The two women are the wives of the suspected masterminds. They also hold Hong Kong identity cards.

Superintendent Ng Wing-sze of the Narcotics Bureau said the other six men were illegal immigrants from Vietnam who were recruited by the syndicate to cultivate cannabis plants in the two factory units.

She said initial investigations showed the six men were taken to the two units as soon as they arrived from Vietnam about six months ago.

“They were banned from leaving the factory units where they were responsible for cultivating cannabis plants. They also lived there,” she said.

Police said all the windows were covered with wooden planks and aluminium foil. There were also cooking utensils and makeshift beds in the units, which are between 2,000 sq ft and 3,000 sq ft in size.

Initial investigations showed the six men were paid HK$5,100 a month each to work in the two greenhouses, Ng said, adding that “the masterminds sent the money to their families in their hometown”.

The superintendent said the syndicate had been in operation for about six months. “We are still investigating who helped the gang distribute the drugs,” she said.

Police believe some of the drugs were for local use.

Officers are investigating how the syndicate obtained the cannabis seeds.

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It is understood each plant could produce as much as 100 grams of herbal cannabis in a three-month cycle. However, syndicate members used equipment such as solar lights and fertiliser to speed up the process.

Each kilogram of herbal cannabis has a street value of about HK$300,000.

Senior Superintendent Yip Wan-lung said police had neutralised the syndicate, adding that this was the “biggest case of cannabis cultivation” since police started recording drug seizures in 1990.

It was the fifth police raid on cannabis growers in the city this year. In the previous four cases, officers seized nearly 3,600 cannabis plants and arrested eight people.

Yip said there had been an increase in the number of cannabis cultivation cases this year. He attributed this to enhanced police enforcement action.