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20/11/2007 00:00:00

Scotland: Triads run =?ISO-8859-1?Q?=A31billion_Scots_cannab?=



---
A TOP cop last night told of his fears that Scotland has become a haven
for drug-running Triad gangs.

Detective Chief Superintendent Stevie Whitelock, head of intelligence at
Strathclyde Police, said: "Organised criminals have turned Scotland into
a cannabis greenhouse."

Up to £1billion of the drug is being cultivated every year in houses and
warehouses converted into drug farms by a large-scale organised crime
gang linked to south-east Asia.

The farms are manned by illegal immigrants, locked in properties 24
hours a day, in temperatures exceeding 38C.

In the past 12 months, 33,000 plants worth £40million have been seized.

But police say this is just the tip of the iceberg.

They believe much of the cannabis is being exported overseas by the
Chinese-Vietnamese crime group.

Law enforcement sources also believe the profits are being channeled
back to south-east Asia where the cash is laundered in tourism.

Mr Whitelock said: "In addition to being a consumer market for drugs,
Scotland has become a drug producer."

In the past 12 months, 61 cannabis factories have been busted in
Strathclyde alone, with 70 in Scotland in total, resulting in 51 arrests.

But there is no evidence of the cannabis being sold on the streets of
Scotland.

Mr Whitelock said: "It has been sent elsewhere. We are producing
cannabis for the UK, Europe and probably further a field.

"In effect, organised crime groups are using Scotland as a greenhouse."

The Scots-grown cannabis contains almost seven times more of the
dangerous chemical THC than foreign imports.

And while seizures are up, it is feared huge quantities - up to
£1billion a year - are exported undiscovered.

The industry has shown a remarkable growth since a cannabis farm was
found in the Kilmarnock area last year.

Within a short time, there were more busts in Lanarkshire, Paisley and
Glasgow.

The farms are often in quiet suburban areas, typically on new housing
estates.

Mr Whitelock said: "They are very shrewd. They are using new houses in
suburban areas where there's often no sense of neighbourhood.

"They rent properties for six months, pay cash up front to the landlord
and invest £20 to £30,000 on equipment.

"Then they bring in the Vietnamese farmers.

"Some know what they're coming for. Others come here thinking they have
a promise of a legitimate job and end up being modern-day slaves."

Police are confident the same crime group is responsible because of
similarities in electrical work and joinery they have found in their raids.

The cannabis farms need vast amounts of heat and light.

The gang's electrical specialists plug directly into the mains supply -
stealing electricity from the suppliers.

Mr Whitelock added: "They use around 20 times the power used for a
normal house to grow the cannabis.

The cost to power companies is thought to be around £2million a year.

"They have to recover the money some way. And that affects everyone -
because it goes on everyone's power bill."

The costs to landlords are also immense because the farmers cause
thousands of pounds worth of damage to the rented properties.

The intelligence chief said: "When they pack up, they leave the interior
of the house like a demolition site."

So far, two key players in the gang have been jailed.

Sai Yau Shek, 53 - who ran operations in Ayrshire - has been caged for
three years and nine months. And Jian He, 29, who has links with Triad
gangs, was recently sentenced to five years and three months.

The group have also spread their tentacles into illegal trafficking of
women sex slaves and the supply and sale of counterfeit DVDs.

Operation League - aiming to tackle cannabis cultivators - is now
entering its second year.

Mr Whitelock added: "They have no respect for life. There has been great
progress.

"But we will not let up. There can be no complacency." He says the
public response has been astonishing.

He added: "Of the 61 raids, a third have been due to people calling and
mentioning Operation League specifically."

There are signs that profits are being laundered into legitimate businesses.

A source said: "There have been substantial quantities of our bank notes
in Vietnam.

"There is only one conclusion, given the scale of the Scottish cannabis
farmers.

"Investigators believe cash from Scotland is being cleaned through
investment in Vietnam's tourist industry."

HOW TO SPOT A FACTORY

THE public have been responsible for around one third of all police
raids on cannabis farms.

Here's what to look out for:

1. The windows of the property are permanently covered from the inside

2. Visits to the premises occur at unusual times of the day or night

3. People often do not live in the premises and only visit to maintain them

4. The offenders may call daily or weekly but usually do not stay long

5. The cannabis or byproducts such as used fertiliser will be removed in
black bin bags or laundry bags

6. Compost bags or gardening equipment may be left outside, usually in
the rear of the premises

7. There may be a vent protruding through the roof of a rear window

8. There may be a pungent smell emanating from the premises

9. There may be noise coming from the equipment in the premises (cooling
fans).

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk


Source: http://www.ukcia.org/news/shownewsarticle.php?articleid=13021
Author: Daily Record via UKCIA

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