Two Vietnamese men have been jailed for three years after they were caught working in a cannabis growing factory which was housing over 500 plants valued at €428,000.
Long Nguyen (aged 51) and Van Nguyen (aged 50) were arrested by gardaí who raided a house in a rural area of Swords after the gardener for the property noticed a number of cannabis plants dumped on a compost heap.
Long of Adleigh Green Road, Hornchurch, England and Van of Ashbourton Road, London, both pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to cultivation of cannabis at Killsallaghan in Dublin on December 2, 2012.
Garda Ronan Darcy told Paul Carroll BL, prosecuting, that gardaí forced entry into the rented house and discovered that bedrooms and a bathroom had been converted into a cannabis growing factory.
There was ventilation, heating and lighting systems in place and the 523 plants discovered were in various stages of growth.
Long told gardaí that he watered the plants, gave them fertiliser and operated the ventilation system and lighting. He admitted that he had helped install some of the equipment and moved the plants.
Long told gardaí he had been living in the house for three or four months and that a Chinese man was in charge.
He denied that he had been present with a woman when she had signed the lease for the property a few months earlier.
Gda Darcy confirmed that he has no previous convictions and he had told gardaí that he agreed to do the work because he needed money to pay off a gambling debt. He had been living in the UK for 21 years before coming to Ireland to work in the factory.
Van told gardaí he had been in the house to fix a boiler but Gda Darcy said the landlord was a qualified plumber as were his sons and the man told them the boiler had not been touched nor did it need to be repaired.
Van also had been living in England and has previous convictions for minor road traffic offences.
Gda Darcy agreed with Hugh Hartnett SC, defending Long, that his client was a divorced father of two who still enjoys a relationship with his children.
He agreed with Caroline Biggs SC, defending Van, the evidence in the case suggested that he was a gardener for the factory and had no involvement in the set-up.
Gda Darcy accepted that the men were sleeping on mattresses or in sleeping bags, had only basic food and that it would have been an unhealthy environment for anyone to live in.
Mr Hartnett said his client had prepared a letter of remorse for the court. He said he had been a model citizen in England and he is now a model prisoner since his remand in custody last December.
Ms Biggs said her client’s “overriding wish” is to return to Vietnam to his elderly mother, disabled child and his fiancé.
She said his wife was killed in a road traffic accident that had left his child severely disabled. His 85-year-old mother is caring for that child in Vietnam.
She said Van accepts that he had agreed to work for others to earn money though he knew what he was doing was wrong.
Judge Martin Nolan said the men had taken a chance and an opportunity to make money.
“It was a total huge misjudgement on their half,” Judge Nolan said before he accepted they were in financial need and probably vulnerable.
“They both knew what they were doing and they were doing it for financial reward,” the judge said.
He further accepted that they didn’t have a relevant criminal record and were unlikely to re-offend before he jailed them for three years.