Police found a web of plug boards and extension leads. Photo: NSW Police Media Unit
Police have uncovered a hydroponic hotbed of cannabis plantations in the Sydney suburb of Mascot, in a seizure estimated to be worth more than $2 million.
The marijuana manufacturing operation, in an industrial complex on Chalmers Crescent, was powered by an extraordinary web of plug boards and extension leads connected to dozens of mains switches.
“It was extremely large hydroponic setup,” said Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Bell, who led the Redfern Region Enforcement Squad raid. “They’d obviously spent a lot of time and money setting up.”
The seizure was worth an estimated $2 million. Photo: NSW Police Media Unit
The raid was conducted about 4.30pm on Thursday afternoon. Police said a total of 653 cannabis plants were found inside the property, with a street value of approximately $2.2 million. Two men of Vietnamese origin were arrested following a concurrent vehicle stop in nearby Sydenham.
A 38-year-old man from Earlwood and a 53-year-old from Footscray in Melbourne were taken to Newtown Police Station and charged with cultivating a large commercial quantity of a prohibited plant. They were also charged with using electricity without authority.
Chief Inspector Bell said the men “obviously had some electrical knowledge” to rig up their audacious theft of electricity at the leased factory.
“That [photograph] is one of three blocks of electricity things. They were actually stealing the power from the substation next door. We had to get Energy Australia out to disconnect it to make it safe,” he said.
“There’s always electrical bypasses in these premises because they don’t want to pay the large amounts of costs for running those large factories. Also, it’s another way to avoid detection by law enforcement.”
And there was evidence the drug manufacturers were planning an expansion.
“There was a lot of brand new equipment that hadn’t been used yet,” Chief Inspector Bell said.
The factory was discovered as part of an ongoing investigation. Both men were refused bail and are scheduled to appear at Central Local Court on Friday.
More than 93,000 illicit drug seizures took place in 2013/14, an increase of 7 per cent on the previous year. More than 27 tonnes of illicit drugs were seized over the period, compared with less than 20 tonnes in the 12 months before, Australian Crime Commission data showed.
Last September, 723 cannabis plants were seized from a single warehouse in Riverstone, in Sydney’s northwest.