Police make one of the biggest drug busts in Australian history after $40million cannabis crop is discovered in a rural town – with 14 men arrested over syndicate
- Thirteen million cannabis plants seized by police on NSW mid north coast
- The raid is part of strike force operation Harthouse, cannabis worth $40million
- Police described bust as one of largest cannabis seizures in Australian history
- 14 Vietnamese nationals were arrested and charged during two day operation
Police have seized more than 13 million cannabis plants worth $40million in one of the biggest drug busts in Australian history.
Fourteen Vietnamese nationals were arrested during a two-day search of three properties near Taree on the New South Wales mid north coast.
They were each charged with a string of offences and remanded in custody with their visa status now being investigated by the Department of Home Affairs.
Strike force operation Harthouse was part of an ongoing investigation into an alleged criminal syndicate behind the large-scale cultivation and supply of cannabis.
NSW Police Drug and Firearms Squad Commander Detective Superintendent John Watson described the bust as one of the most significant in Australian history, adding police hadn’t seen a cannabis seizure that size since the 1970s.
Police seized more than 13 million cannabis plants during a two day operation last week
Harthouse was set up 12 months ago to investigate the cultivation and supply of cannabis across NSW, consisting of State Crime Command Drug and Firearms Squad detectives with assistance from the Australian Crime Intelligence Commission.
Following extensive investigations, Drug and Firearms Squad detectives with the assistance of local and regional officers, along with the Dog Unit, commenced a two-day operation at a property at Minimbah last Thursday.
Almost 5,593 cannabis plants were seized along with 39 pounds of dried cannabis, worth a combined total of $16.9 million.
Police arrested six Vietnamese nationals, including a 31-year-old permanent resident, a 41-year-old who is unlawfully in Australia, a 23-year-old and 27-year-old both currently on student visas and a 38-year-old and a 44-year-old both currently on bridging visas.
Fourteen men, all Vietnamese nationals were arrested during the alleged drug bust
The men were charged with multiple offences and faced court, where they were refused bail
They were all charged with cultivate prohibited plant (large commercial quantity), supply of prohibited drug (indictable) and participating in a criminal group contributing criminal activity.
Investigators executed two simultaneous crime scene search warrants at properties at Melinga and Moorland on Friday, where they seized an additional 7,760 cannabis plants.
A further Vietnamese nationals were arrested including a 31-year-old man permanent resident, three men who are unlawfully in Australia aged 24, 23 and 22, two men on student visas aged 22 and 27 and two men on bridging visas aged 24 and 23.
All 14 men arrested during the two-day operation were refused bail to reappear in court on January 19.
Police made 14 arrests at three properties near Taree on the NSW mid north coast
Each man’s visa status has been referred to the Department of Home Affairs to be investigated further.
‘As far as cannabis seizures go, we have not seen one of this size since the 1970s,’ Drug and Firearms Squad Commander Detective Superintendent John Watson said.
‘The biggest difference is in 1975 outdoor crops were seasonal, so criminal groups were restricted to one crop a year, whereas these grow houses are weather controlled enabling the harvest of new plants every 12 weeks or so.’
Police said they hadn’t seen a cannabis seizure this size since the 1970s
State Crime Commander Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith added: ‘The significance of the arrests and seizures stretch far beyond the cannabis trade, it impacts the revenue made by these criminal groups to invest in other organised crime that places the community’s safety and way of life under constant risk.
‘This is why the disruption and dismantling of organised crime is such a priority for NSW Police and we will continue to be dogged in our pursuit of those involved to put them before the courts.’
Investigations under Strike Force Harthouse are continuing.
Last week’s raids conducted under Strike Force Harthouse, which has so far led to a total of 33 arrests and the destruction of cannabis worth more than $100 million.
Police have described last week’s drug bust as one of the biggest in Australian history