Raid uncovers £400,000 cannabis factory at Havant home tended by trafficking victims

A cannabis farm tended to by Tran Van Sang and Phong Ba Le, discovered in Jessie Road, Havant, in December 2016. Pictures: CPS
A cannabis farm tended to by Tran Van Sang and Phong Ba Le, discovered in Jessie Road, Havant, in December 2016. Pictures: CPS

Malicious letters detailing allegations against man being sent to homes in Portsmouth

TWO Vietnamese men trafficked into the country caught ‘gardening’ a £400,000 cannabis factory are to be deported.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard the men were forced to work at a house in Jessie Road, Havant, to pay off debts to the traffickers.

Phong Ba Le, 27, of Jessie Road, Havant, was jailed for 12 months at Portsmouth Crown Court for tending to a cannabis factory Picture: Hampshire Constabulary

Phong Ba Le, 27, of Jessie Road, Havant, was jailed for 12 months at Portsmouth Crown Court for tending to a cannabis factory Picture: Hampshire Constabulary

When police officers burst through the back door at the house they found 675 mature plants and 837 seedlings, ranging from 2ft to 5ft tall.

In all, the drugs would have been worth up to £400,000 on the street, the court heard.

Each of the three bedrooms, and the loft, had been given over to growing cannabis plants.

Sophisticated lighting and plastic sheeting had been rigged up, with the living room converted into sleeping quarters for the two men.

Tran Van Sang, 37, of Jessie Road, Havant, was jailed for 12 months at Portsmouth Crown Court for tending to a cannabis factory

Picture: Hampshire Constabulary

Tran Van Sang, 37, of Jessie Road, Havant, was jailed for 12 months at Portsmouth Crown Court for tending to a cannabis factory Picture: Hampshire Constabulary

Tran Van Sang, 37, and Phong Ba Le, 27, were both jailed for a year after admitting being concerned in the production of cannabis, a class B drug, between June and December last year.

They will be deported after serving half of the sentence, and have already spent four months on remand.

Prosecutor James Kellam said it was not uncommon for people from South Asia to be trafficked into the UK and put into ‘bonded labour’.

Mr Kellam said: ‘They’re unlikely to be responsible for preserving or drying the crops, much less would they be involved in the sale of the finished crop to wholesalers, middle men, street dealers and eventual users – they are gardeners – doing the simplest and arguable most dangerous part of the operation.

‘They’re required to live in a house with an illegal crop for months on end and run an obvious risk of being caught.’

He said people higher up were likely to have benefited from the pair’s labour.

Recorder Nicholas Atkinson QC said: ‘It’s an example of modern-day slavery.’

Sentencing, the judge said: ‘I say that you played a lesser role because you performed a limited function under the direction of others.

‘I’m satisfied that you were engaged in that by way of pressure, coercion and intimidation and you were clearly in a position whereby you’ve been exploited.’

But he said the scale of the operation meant he had to give prison sentences, with a £140 victim surcharge.

The court heard the men may not be deported until they pay the surcharge.

Addressing the men via a Vietnamese interpreter, the judge added: ‘And I wish you both well and that this whole unfortunate involvement in this country will come to an end very shortly.’