The Criminal Assets Bureau has seized three homes linked to a Chinese crime group who made millions by operating cannabis growhouses across the country.
One drug operation alone made nearly €2m over a 40-month period, with the gang managing growhouses in both Ireland and the UK.
The High Court this week ruled that four assets linked to the gang, worth around €500,000, were acquired in connection with the proceeds of crime.
This included properties in Dublin, Tipperary and Cork as well as a bank account containing €40,000.
Three Chinese nationals, Luk Yau Kwok, Weizhong Zhang, and his wife Huijuan Xu, were said to be connected to the purchase and operating of the growhouses.
Luk Yau Kwok (65) was described as directing the buying of two homes to grow cannabis, which resulted in large profits for the criminal enterprise.
They were a house called ‘Weston’ on Rathealy Road, Fermoy, Cork and No 1, Mountain View, Bansha Road, Tipperary Town, both purchased for around €130,000.
The Tipperary growhouse was raided by gardaí in 2018 and cannabis plants with an estimated street value of around €189,000 were seized.
The CAB said it was operational for a 40-month period, in which time it would have produced close to €2m worth of the drug.
A separate raid on the Fermoy property in 2017 led to €240,000 worth of cannabis being seized.
Yau Kwok told CAB officers he bought these homes to develop and rent them.
Mr Justice Alexander Owens, in his judgment, said that the buying of these “ramshackle properties” for the purpose of renting them out lacked any credibility.
The court heard Yau Kwok had previously owned a home operating as a growhouse in Evesham, Worcestershire, England, where up to £624,000 (€716,571) worth of cannabis was found in 2013.
He has little connection to Ireland and currently lives in England, where he runs a company involved in food production.
The court heard his associate Weizhong Zhang was “fully involved” in developing and running two properties as cannabis growhouses.
Zhang and his wife were also involved in buying 3 Warrenstown Rise, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, for €195,000 in 2016.
Huijuan Xu claimed money transfers from China to pay for the property were gifts from relatives, which the court rejected.
Mr Justice Owens said the couple, who lived in Portlaoise but have since fled the country, were “living off substantial sums derived from cannabis production”, which funded the purchase of the Dublin house.
Huijuan Xu had also built up savings of €40,000 in a bank account which the court ruled were the proceeds of crime.
During a search of the Dublin home in 2019, gardaí recovered evidence of another growhouse operating in Ballyroan, Co Laois.
Mr Justice Owens said the CAB’s evidence was compelling, and ordered that all four assets be seized.