A group of seven people, including a former councillor from BANES have been jailed for drug offences.
Their ambitious half million pound conspiracy to supply industrial amounts of cannabis onto the street was thwarted by an undercover operation by detectives. More than 1200 cannabis plants were seized during the operation with an estimated wholesale value of more than £540,000 – equating to a street value of more than one million pounds.
Former BANES councillor Donal Hassett, aged 56, of Southdown Road in Bath, was handed a two year nine months sentence. He had been found guilty of conspiring to produce supply class B drugs.
The investigation proved that Hassett played a pivotal role in the drugs production, leasing four properties – which he logged in false names to evade capture.
Tan Tran (27) who also denied the charges but was convicted of conspiring to produce cannabis was jailed for three years.
Five other people – 38-year-old Ngoc Anh Tran, Dung Quang Ha (35) Ha Ly Nguyen (29), Khai Ta (38) and Antony Giorno (62) had all previously admitted to conspiring to produce cannabis. Tran was jailed for four years; Nguyen; received a 27-month sentence; Ta was jailed for three years 10 months; Quang was jailed for 21 months; and Giorno was given a 16 month jail sentence (suspended), plus 180 hours unpaid work.
Thinh Hoang of Seventh Avenue, Filton – had previously admitted money-laundering offences and has already served 14 months in prison
The trial followed an 18-month nationwide investigation by Zephyr, the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit, who executed a number of arrest warrants and house searches in Glasgow, Bath and Bristol on 22 March last year, following intelligence gathering.
The Zephyr investigation unveiled a Vietnamese-led organised crime group, which was responsible for the large scale cultivation and sale of cannabis. A number of vulnerable illegal immigrants were believed to have been used to oversee each cannabis cultivation as “gardeners.”
The crime group was led by 38-year-old Ngoc Anh Tran from Glasgow. She was assisted in the illegal enterprise by Ly Nguyen and Khai Ta, while Tan Vu Tran and Antony Giorno acted as caretakers for the properties being used and who also moved the gardeners around.
Hassett rented properties under false identities, while Thinh Phu Hoang assisted in the laundering of profits from the organisation.
Searches by Zephyr officers, supported by local policing area teams between December 2015 and February 2016 unveiled 161 cannabis plants at Downwinds in Weston-super-Mare; Fire Tree Lane in Hanham (247 plants); Whittingham Drive in Swindon (302 plants). Further enquiries unearthed cannabis plant cultivations in Bridge Road, Eastville (150 plants); Willis Road, Kingswood (97 plants); Kelston View, Bath (108 plants); and Hannington in Wiltshire (227 plants).
A/DI Nick Eckland, the senior investigating officer, said: “This was a highly significant and successful Zephyr-led operation, which has thwarted a multi –thousand pound conspiracy to supply huge amounts of cannabis on to the streets.
“We have worked closely with our partners – including the UK Border Force and the Salvation Army – in order to pinpoint those who we believe, were at the very heart of this group of criminals.
“We hope that the success of this operation means that we have not only removed a large quantity of drugs, which were destined for the streets but have also safeguarded vulnerable individuals from further possible exploitation,” said A/DI Eckland.