Cannabis bust ’one of largest’ in history
Fourteen men have been charged and more than $40 million worth of cannabis seized in one of the largest busts for the drug in Australian history.
NSW Police swooped on three properties in Minimbah, Melinga and Moorwood, on the state's mid north coast, where they seized 13,353 cannabis plants.
Six men, all Vietnamese nationals, were arrested at a property in Minimbah on Thursday and taken to Taree Police Station where they were charged with cultivating and supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited plant as well as participating in a criminal group.
Officers said those arrested include a 31-year-old permanent resident, a 41-year-old who is allegedly unlawfully in Australia, a 23-year-old and 27-year-old who are both on student visas and a 38-year-old and a 44-year-old on bridging visas.
More than 5500 cannabis plants worth close to $17 million were seized from the property.
On Friday officers raided two more properties, in Melinga and Moorland, where they nabbed more than 7700 cannabis plants.
Another eight men, also Vietnamese nationals, including a 31-year-old permanent resident, three men - aged 22, 23 and 24 - who are allegedly unlawfully in Australia, a 22-year-old and 27-year-old on student visas and a 23-year-old and 24-year-old on bridging visas, were arrested.
They were taken to Taree Police Station and face the same charges.
All fourteen man were refused bail and will appear in court in January.
The Department of Home Affairs have been alerted about visa issues, police said.
Drug and Firearms Squad Commander Detective Superintendent John Watson said police hadn't seen a seizure of this size since the 1970s.
"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," he said.
Police Minister David Elliott described the bust as the result of "remarkable" work from authorities.
"We know these criminal groups have no regard for the community and the NSW Government will continue to support NSW Police to shut down their operations at all levels," he said.
A strike force was formed in November last year to investigate the growing and supply of cannabis across NSW.
Since then, detectives have busted six rural properties, charged 19 people and seized more than $60 million worth of the drug - not including the latest bust.
Originally published as Cannabis bust 'one of largest' in history