Friday 15 December 2017

Man may have been trafficked

Sun Song Wang
Sun Song Wang

Anne Campbell

A CHINESE man found in a €1 million cannabis growhouse in County Louth may have been a victim of human trafficking, Dundalk Circuit Court was told last week.

There was confusion during the sentencing over the movements of Sun Song Wang, a 21-year-old Chinese national who was found acting as a 'gardener' in a massive drugs growhouse uncovered at Currabeg Industrial Estate Ardee on October 24, 2012.

He was given a seven-year sentence, with the final two years suspended, which was backdated to when he went into custody.

The hearing, which was attended by the Migrant Council of Ireland (MCI), was told that gardai were still awaiting the outcome of their inquiries with Interpol and other European and Chinese police forces about Wang's movements before he was caught in the makeshift living quarters at the growhouse where he was found cooking a chicken in a pot.

Gardai said they had commenced their investigations a couple of months ago after the MCI raised the possibility that this man may have been trafficked after they spoke to him while he was on remand in prison. His barrister said those who are trafficked, in a business worth €30 billion a year globally, may not know their rights in the country they end up in and it can take a long time for them to reveal what's happened to them.

There was also a suggestion that his family had been threatened in China by the traffickers.

Judge Leonie Reynolds was told that there were 'certain indictors' that Wang might be a victim of human trafficking, but because the Garda investigation was not complete, there was only Wang's word for that.

Wang told gardai, in interviews earlier this year, that he had wanted to leave China for financial reasons and did in 2009 on a holiday visa to Turkey on his own passport.

From there, he travelled to Greece and worked for a year and there were 'people who arranged travel and work for him which he called 'the organisation'. He paid them the Chinese yuan equivalent of more than €6,000 but owed them a total of €14,000.

After Greece, he went to Spain and on to Ireland, getting in on the second attempt. The first time, in January 2011, he was brought before Cloverhill District Court charged with an immigration offence and was given the Probation Act. He had a genuine Chinese passport and had been told to make an asylum application within five days but he failed to show up and an order for deportation was signed in February 2012.

When he was interviewed about the growhouse, he said he worked in restaurants in Dublin and Drogheda, but was unable to say exactly where. He said he had met another Chinese national in a pub near Ardee who had promised to pay him €300 a day for looking after the site at Currabeg.

Wang was only there for about four days when gardai raided the premises and found a sophisticated growing, heating, irrigation and ventilation operation and the defendant was acting as 'the gardener'. Nearly 3,000 plants were found, and the estimated street value of the haul was estimated to be more than €1.2 million.

Wang denied being involved in a drugs operation and has no previous convictions.

The Argus

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