Czech police have busted the largest marihuana grow operation ever discovered in the country. Last month, officers from the national anti-drug unit found nearly 6,000 cannabis plants at four different sites in western Bohemia, and arrested 13 members of a Czech-Vietnamese gang, the police said on Thursday. The police also detained a Vietnamese man who was sealed in at one of the facilities and forced to care for the plants.
The anti-drug unit of the Czech police launched the code-named Operation Dukla in late May after several months of investigation. They discovered four large-scale grow operations at different locations of the Karlovy Vary and Ústí regions in west of the country. The police arrested 13 members of a Czech-Vietnamese gang running the operation, and secured 5,800 cannabis plants which could produce up to 500 kilos of marihuana with a street value of 40 million crowns, or nearly two million US dollars.
The police said they were surprised by how well the buildings were secured as well as by the fact they were not connected to the power grid. Sudden surges in electricity consumption often give away large scale marihuana grow ops which is why the gang used diesel generators to produce power. Milan Hammer is the spokesman of the National Anti-Drug Central, a police unit dedicated to fighting illicit drugs.
“As part of our operation, we have arrested 13 people, seven Czechs and six Vietnamese nationals. The plantation had 5,800 marihuana plants. What’s interesting is that the operation was only running at half of its capacity because the gang was waiting for new generators to be delivered from China to produce electricity.”
Last year, Czech police discovered 165 illegal marihuana plantations, and confiscated over 440 kilos of the drug, less than they discovered in this singe operation. The authorities say the illegal marihuana business is increasingly run by members of the Vietnamese community but in this case, the gang was headed by two Czechs who scouted for suitable locations, were in charge of distribution and controlled the money. They were also trying to establish a channel to the large German market, according to the investigators.
In one of the facilities, the police also found a Vietnamese national whom the gang apparently sealed in, forcing him to take care of the plants.
“We found one of the growers, a Vietnamese man, walled in at one of the growth plants. He was getting food and drink through a shaft, and there was no way he could leave the premises.”
The anti-drug unit spokesman added the man was quite happy at having been discovered by the police. Twelve out of the 13 members of the gang have been place in custody pending trial. If convicted, they face up to 12 years in prison.