More arrests in ongoing drug bust

November 25, 2010

Drug bust accused in court An entire courtroom in the Melbourne Magistrates Court devoted to hearings for people alleged to be part of a multimillion-dollar drug ring.

POLICE have seized hundreds more cannabis plants and made more arrests as they continue to raid homes linked to Victoria’s largest ever drug bust.

In their biggest raid of the operation, police found more than 400 cannabis plants when they searched a Springvale South home yesterday, adding to the thousands of plants found in raids on Tuesday.

Eleven rooms of the two-storey home were being used to cultivate marijuana in hydroponic set-ups, police said. They found a further 300 cannabis plants when they raided two Hampton Park homes in the same street yesterday.

In the Melbourne Magistrates Court an entire courtroom was devoted to filing hearings for 30 of those charged.

Those appearing were each given numbers and grouped by colours, depending on whether they were involved with the Footscray, Melton or Dandenong operation.

Many of those arrested in yesterday’s raids were in the country illegally, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship confirmed.

It said that 11 ”unlawful non-citizens” from Vietnam were located, along with a further 10 people ”of interest”. A spokesman said the additional 10 all had valid Australian visas and were mostly students.

The court heard Lam Van Nguyen, 47, and Thanh Quoc Luu, 41, who are facing charges including cultivating and trafficking cannabis are allegedly unlawfully in Australia.

Recovering heroin addict William Chau, 27, of St Albans, told the court his human rights had been breached because he was promised his methadone medication while in custody but was still waiting.

My Ha Cao, 20, of Footscray, wiped tears from her eyes as she sat in court next to her boyfriend Tien Quang Luong, also of Footscray who, at 19, is the youngest of those charged.

Student Trang Thi Nguyen, 20, of Deer Park, was released on bail on the condition she report daily to police, surrender her passports and not leave Victoria. Police did not oppose her bail bid.

The court heard all but one of the 30 accused are of Vietnamese origin. Five are women.

Many required an interpreter. The court was told some speak no English at all.

Magistrate Luisa Bazzani ordered all 30 to face the same court for a committal mention hearing on April 6.

In the Victorian Supreme Court yesterday, police sought forfeiture of properties whose owners are linked to an alleged $32 million syndicate. Justice Robert Osborn ordered that the proceeds of sale of an Endeavour Hills home and a Berwick home be taken by the state.

Police have applied to the courts to seize properties, assets and bank accounts valued at more than $20 million following Operation Entity raids.

There are about 18 to 20 properties expected to be involved, mainly in Victoria, with some in New Zealand, as well as about 100 bank accounts.

Over the past two days police say they have seized nearly 9000 cannabis plants, arrested 53 people and raided 62 active crop houses.

Victoria Police Detective Superintendent Gerry Ryan said in its two years, Operation Entity has seized 13,893 cannabis plants, raided 115 properties and arrested 93 people.

Police believe the syndicates have been responsible for the production of almost $400 million worth of cannabis in the past two years.

Source:  TheAge

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