Wednesday 17 January 2018

Chinese men jailed for roles in cannabis grow house operation

Fiona Ferguson

TWO Chinese men have been jailed for their roles in a €400,000 cannabis grow house operation.

The men had been living in basic conditions inside in a warehouse for weeks where they tended to 1,000 cannabis plants.

They had been told they were going to get a wage but were never paid.

Food and provisions for the plants were delivered to them.

Neng Wen Zheng (39) and He Xue Ji (29), both of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to cultivation of cannabis without a license at Unit 70, Cookstown Industrial Estate on March 2, 2012.

Judge Martin Nolan said the pair were “economic migrants who had come to Europe to make their fortune but had been preyed upon by other members of their community.”

He jailed both men for two and a half years and backdated their sentence to their arrest date.

Garda Ruairi Meagher told Michael Bowman BL, prosecuting, that gardai using confidential information raided a warehouse on the Cookstown Industrial Estate.

They found a large amount of cannabis on the ground and two tents, each containing about 400 cannabis plants.

Heating, lighting and cooling systems necessary for the cultivation of cannabis were also in place.

Two Chinese men were found living in extremely basic conditions on a mezzanine level of the warehouse.

Both said they knew what they were doing was illegal.

Neng Wen Zheng told gardai he had been there for three months and was responsible for watering plants.

He was to be paid €1,500 a month but had not received any money so far.

He said he harvested the plants when they were mature and someone

came to collect them.

He Xue Ji said he had been at the warehouse for two to three weeks.

He said a third Chinese man had brought him to the warehouse and provided food as well as provisions for the plants.

Gda Meagher said there were 1,000 plants seized in total with a value of more than €400,000.

Neng Wen Zheng has one previous conviction for entering the state without a passport.

He Xue Ji has no previous convictions.

Both men have been in custody for eight months.

Gda Meagher agreed with defence counsel that both men were fully co-operative.

Padraig Dwyer SC, defending Neng Wen Zheng, said his client had run up debts in China and was offered a job in “the west” as a way of discharging the debt.

He said he ended up working in the grow house and was not going to benefit from any profits but be paid a wage. He was dependent on others for food and had no contact with the outside world apart from his laptop which he used to Skype with his children.

He said this had been a salutary lesson for him and he found his time on remand tough.

Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, defending He Xue Ji, said his client had run up a gambling debt of €10,000 prior to this offence. He submitted he was the typical type of a person vulnerable to exploitation.

The money he was promised never materialised and he was constantly under threat.

Mr Ó Lideadha said He Xue Ji’s family had a fervent desire to have him return to China.

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