Saturday 18 November 2017

Chinese ‘peasant farmers’ jailed for two years after being tricked into growing cannabis in Dublin

Declan Brennan

TWO economic migrants who answered a gardening job advertisement were tricked into living in primitive and horrendous conditions in a cannabis growing operation, a court has heard.

The two men, who both came from different peasant farming families in China, answered ads in a Chinese newspaper offering jobs as flower growers here.

The men were forced to live in an industrial lock-up in Dublin in close proximity to chemicals with high levels of humidity and noise created by the air conditioning system installed to grow the plants.

Xiabin Huang (30) and Yong Chen (35), both of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the cultivation of cannabis plants at Millennium Business Park, Cappagh Road, Ballycoolin on March 7 2012.

The 900 plants discovered at the industrial unit had an estimated total value of around €800,000. One of the men was never paid the money he was promised for his work.

Judge Martin Nolan said the men were economic migrants who had carried out a “crime of desperation”. He imposed sentences of two years on both men.

He said that the men, who are both fathers, came to this country to better their lives.

Garda Colm Grogan told Dean Kelly BL, defending Huang, that the men shared a mattress on the floor and had only a hand basin to wash themselves.

He described their living conditions as “horrendous”. The unit had been fitted out with florescent lights, fertilisers and extractor fans to grow the plants.

On one occasion when Huang left the unit to meet with his wife the owners of the operation threatened the couple. Gda Grogan said this was a serious threat.

Feargal Kavanagh SC, defending Chen, said that money lenders in China had given his client money to come to Ireland and that since this offence they have taken the home of his family.

He said his client stupidly believed he could make a lot of money by taking care of plants and that he only realised it was a big cannabis operation when he arrived here.

His client felt sorry for his crime and aggrieved at ever taking the job offer because it was turned out to be a “complete disaster”.

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