Gardai seek to prove triad link to cannabis growhouses
GARDAI are hopeful their 'Operation Wireless II' crackdown on cannabis growhouses will provide proof for the first time of the involvement of UK-based Chinese triad gangs.
Chinese translators are now assisting detectives investigating the results of over 200 raids carried out nationwide into the cannabis supply network.
A total of five major growhouses were successfully targeted in Dublin, Wexford, Meath and Cork with over €1m worth of cannabis seized.
Over recent months, almost 30 Asian nationals have been arrested for growhouse-related activities.
Many were found to have no passports or identifying papers on them. Some are believed to have been low-wage migrants tricked by the triads into working in cannabis production.
Most speak little or no English and expressed confusion to gardai over precisely where they had been in Ireland.
Gardai are now using Chinese language experts to examine e-mails and mobile phone text messages and documents as part of follow up inquiries.
Particular interest is focused on a number of mobile phones seized as part of the nationwide crackdown.
Telecommunications experts have been able to retrieve a number of text messages from the phone memories though all are apparently written in Mandarin Chinese.
It is understood that some texts were sent to UK-based mobile numbers.
Detectives hope that the translations willoffer them proof of the involvement of the feared Chinese triad gangs in the cannabis cultivation trade.
For some time gardai have suspected UK-based triad gangs, working with Irish drug gangs, have been setting up growhouses here.
The trade has been facilitated by the surging demand for cannabis in Ireland, particularly for the more potent new varieties of the drug.
Herbal cannabis prices have risen sharply as a result of the high quality plants being produced at the growhouses.
Street prices have rocketed from €25 a gram last year to around €40 while in 2010 it could be purchased for around €12.