Tuesday, November 26, 2013
More than £1m of cannabis and tobacco has been seized by Norfolk police following the discovery of one of the county’s largest cannabis farms in recent years.
Seven people remain in custody following the discovery by Norfolk Constabulary in Bradenham, near Dereham.
Officers responding to a report of an injured person and criminal activity at Gibbett Site Pig Farm in Hale Road found the “highly organised and sophisticated operation” at 8.40pm on Sunday evening. Armed officers were deployed to the scene, along with a helicopter and police dog unit, supported by local police units.
During searches that evening, a cannabis production operation was located within a building at the site and a 30-year-old man arrested at the scene on suspicion of cultivation of cannabis.
No injured people were located and officers were satisfied, after extensive searches, that this part of the report was a hoax.
During the police searches, a second building housing approximately 200 large sacks of raw tobacco and a crude shredding machine to produce hand-rolling tobacco was found. It is estimated that the combined total of products seized is more than £1m.
Early yesterday morning, Monday, November 25, a second man, 47, was arrested on suspicion of cultivation of cannabis as he attended the site.
Three people were also discovered in one of the sheds at around 1pm. The two men, aged 20 and 31 and one woman aged 45, believed to be foreign nationals, were also arrested on suspicion of cultivation of cannabis.
As a result of initial police enquiries a further two people were arrested yesterday evening.
Both men, one aged 34 and one aged 37, were also arrested on suspicion of cultivation of cannabis.
All seven remain in custody at Wymondham Police Investigation Centre, where they await further questioning.
A police cordon remains as further enquiries take place.
Chief Inspector Ady Porter, Breckland Commander, said: “Information received by police led to a significant police response in order to maximise the safety of all concerned.
“The farm is in an isolated location and the cannabis factory was discovered in one of many outbuildings on the site with 20 separate rooms given over to cannabis production.
“Every room was set up for production from seedlings to mature plants with extensive hydroponic equipment. In our view this is a highly organised and sophisticated operation and one of the most significant in recent times.”
Investigations by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) into the seizure of hand-rolling tobacco are ongoing. Paul Barton from HMRC said: “The quantity of un-regulated tobacco and the associated crude manufacturing equipment found at this site should send out a clear warning that if you buy cheap tobacco that looks too good to be true it probably is. Criminals who operate under these conditions do not care what goes into the product or who they sell to, including children; they are only out to make a profit for themselves.
“Our activity sends a clear message to those involved in this type of criminality. Attempts to import, distribute and sell tobacco goods on which UK duty have not been paid are treated extremely seriously by HMRC, and we will relentlessly pursue any individuals or crime gangs believed to be involved.”
Officers from the RSPCA and Trading Standards also attended the site as a precautionary measure to protect the welfare of stock.
See tomorrow’s papers for a full report and pictures from the scene.