Pubdate: Sun, 11 Sep 2005
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2005 The Observer
Author: Tony Thompson
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


Gangs Make Millions By Targeting London With Cannabis Grown In Houses
Rented From Unsuspecting Landlords

Police in swaths of London are being 'overwhelmed' by Vietnamese gangs
flooding the streets with high-strength, home-grown cannabis.

The gangs, who have also been linked to murders, people-smuggling and
kidnapping, are making millions of pounds by renting houses from
unsuspecting landlords and converting them into sophisticated cannabis

Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, head of the Metropolitan
Police Specialist Crime Directorate, told The Observer the problem was
now so significant that his officers were working closely with the
Vietnamese authorities and community to stamp out the problem.

'We have seen a growth in cannabis cultivation in recent times in
London and we have experienced a tendency for this sort of crime to be
committed by a number of communities, including small elements within
the Vietnamese community,' he said.

In just one London court last week, five separate cases involving
Vietnamese drugs gangs were being heard on the same day. One judge
even complained he was having trouble telling the cases apart as he
had dealt with so many in such a short time.

Last month, Hung Nguyen, 17, was convicted of running two cannabis
factories. He told London's Blackfriars Crown Court that a gang had
paid him ?200 a week to mind the crop of 270 plants in two houses.

Joseph Brown, prosecuting, told the court police were being 'totally
overwhelmed' by illegal Vietnamese immigrants growing cannabis in
south-east London. The gangs are operating on such a massive scale
that their crops have led to an explosion in the amount being seized.

Between April 2003 and March 2004, the Met recovered 468,364kg
(103,000lb) of herbal cannabis, which includes plants grown and
harvested. Between April 2004 and March 2005, its officers seized
1,009,487kg (222,600lb) - more than twice the amount of the previous
year. Two-thirds of this was seized in the final six months. Already
this year police have raided more than 250 cannabis factories across
London, the majority of them run by Vietnamese gangs, and the trend
shows no sign of slowing down.

Over the summer, police in the east London borough of Newham have been
particularly active, closing down more than 100 factories including 14
in one day, yet they believe they have found only the tip of the iceberg.

A typical cannabis farm will contain up to 1,000 plants and generate
profits of up to ?500,000 for the gangsters each year.

One Vietnamese farming operation uncovered in south London recently
used four houses, each of which was equipped with hi-tech growing
equipment that yielded harvests of 40kg (88lb) of cannabis, worth
?120,000, every six weeks.

The equipment alone was worth more than ?20,000. Electricity to power
the systems was being stolen from the national grid, and a
sophisticated venting system ensured that the crops' distinctive odour
passed through the roof of the house to prevent neighbours from being

Detectives fear the profits that can be made growing cannabis could
lead to a turf war with other gangs. Last January, the body of a
Vietnamese man called Khan Tho Nguyen (Nguyen is a common Vietnamese
name) was found in a cannabis factory in Wembley, north London.

No one has been arrested for his murder and police do not yet know if
he was killed by members of the gang behind the factory, or by others
trying to steal the drugs.

Last year, Jermaine Fyves, a member of a south London yardie gang
called the Alligator Crew, was jailed for life after shooting dead
Vietnamese drug dealer Hoi Son Nguyen in a plot to steal a stash of
cannabis that Nguyen had grown. Stabbings, kidnappings and attacks
have also been linked to the gangs.

Although the Vietnamese gang problem is centred on London, police
forces across the country, for example on Merseyside, say they have
seen an identical trend in the growth of home cannabis production.

Senior officers believe the sharp rise is at least partly due to the
decision to reclassify cannabis from a class B to a class C drug which
led to an increase in demand.

Tighter border controls as a result of the terrorist threat have also
made the domestic product more sought after. Gangs who grow cannabis
make far higher profits now because they do not have to smuggle the
drugs across borders.

The rise of Vietnamese gangs and their dominance of the cannabis
growing industry is part of a global trend. Police in Sydney,
Australia, have announced the formation of a South East Asian crime
task force to tackle Vietnamese gangs after busting dozens of
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