Cannabis factory hauls passes million mark

GARDAI have uncovered two more major cannabis growing factories in Laois bringing to more than one euro million the value of the drug seized in the county in September.

GARDAI have uncovered two more major cannabis growing factories in Laois bringing to more than one euro million the value of the drug seized in the county in September.

Abbeyleix gardai confirmed yesterday that they had raided a growhouse in a rural area seizing more than 60,000 euros in cannabis herb. The raid followed quickly from the uncovering of an industrial operation between Portlaoise and Mountmellick last week in which E600,000 worth of the drug was found being cultivated.

Both raids follow the discovery of a E400,000 grow house in Killenard at the beginning of September. It was the second time the house was used as a cannabis factory. The latest raids bring to seven the number of cannabis growing operations discovered in Laois this year. There have also been raids in rural areas around Portarlington, Mountrath, Attanagh and Abbeyleix.

But last week’s raid near Portlaoise is understood to have been one of the biggest factories discovered in the State to date. In the early hours of last Thursday morning, September 22, members of the Garda National Drugs Unit, assisted by Portlaoise gardai, swooped on the house off the busy Portlaoise to Mountmellick Road near Kyletalesha.

Besides specialist growing equipment, including an irrigation system and ventilation units, some 1,500 cannabis plants were seized with an estimated street value of E600,000. The plants are understood to have been cultivated in a glass house within a sound-proofed shed beside the family residence of one of the men arrested. An industrial generator were found on the scene.

Three men and a woman were detained during the operation and appeared before Portlaoise District Court Last Friday. They were John Cummins, Ard Evan Rise, Monasterevin; Philip Shanahan, Kyletalesha, Portlaoise; Thi Hoa Nguyen, Kyletalesha; and Hui Trong Nguyen, Kyletalesha. Cummins and Shanahan have been released on bail, while the Nguyens have been remanded to Cloverhill prison.

The garda raid was part of the nationwide Operation Nitrogen. A search of another premise was also carried out in Rathangan Co Kildare as part of last Thursday’s operation.

Meanwhile, on Monday (September 19), Gardaí uncovered another major growhouse in a rural area of Borris-in-Ossory. The two storey house was being rented out to strangers, who were not known by the owners of the house. The house had been leased since February through a letting agent.

Abbeyleix Gardaí said that, although a large number of plants were seized, it was not as substantial as the Portlaoise raid.

In a separate operation, earlier this month gardaí charged two English nationals of Vietamese origin arising after a raid on a house in Killenard. It was the second time the house had been used as a grow factory. There have also been a number of raids on houses in Laois, Kildare and Westmeath this year, and last week gardaí seized cannabis valued at E12,000 from a car in Galway.

Gardai do not know why a number of such growhouses have been discovered in Laois although they believe the large number of empty houses in rural areas may be an incentive. It is understood that the autum is harvest time for cannabis growers.

Garda Supt Philip Lyons has asked the public to report any suspicious activity at rented houses.

“I would ask people who are renting property to keep an eye on it, and report anything suspicious,” he said at last Friday’s joint policing meeting in Mountmellick.