THREE Chinese men who pleaded guilty to their involvement in a massive drugs bust at Piltown eleven months ago were jailed for seven and half years, suspended for six years on condition they leave the country immediately and not return during their life-time.
The accused Guotai Lin (60), Lin Lin (41) and Chao Long He (36) of no fixed abode were sentenced by Judge Alice Doyle at Kilkenny Circuit Court on Tuesday last.
Assisted by an interpreter and described by Garda Thomas Gahan as being on the ‘lowest rung of the ladder in relation to this particular operation but caught in time’, the trio pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis for sale or supply and cultivation of cannabis in Kildalton, Piltown on May 2, 2012.
Smuggled into Ireland
They’ve been in custody since May 4 last year and were trafficked into the UK and then smuggled into Ireland using false ID papers.
The court heard they were effectively imprisoned in Piltown, their living conditions were basic but they knew they were dealing with cannabis.
Garda Gahan outlined that 43.5 kilogrammes of cannbis herb valued at €870,000 was seized along with 16 kilos in packages after members of the Garda National Drugs Unit and Gardai from Kilkenny Division and the Regional Support Unit raided the warehouse - two separate industrial units that had been merged – at 6.55pm on May 2 last.
However, media reports at the time estimated the street value of the cannabis find, some harvested and much of it still in pots, to be in the region of €3.5 million.
The two units had been rented out, unknown to the owners and to create optimum conditions for cultivation, the walls were knocked between the units, the roof was lowered, the ESB was bypassed and ventilation systems were installed.
While elaborate heat lamps and thermometers, nutrients and water barrells for feeding the plants, a vacuum packing machine and weighing scales were discovered.
Garda Gahan presented comprehensive photographic evidence of the warehouse and it showed separate areas where cannabis was being dried, two rooms where plants were at an advanced stage of growth and another where plants had flowered and were ready for cultivation.
Garda Gahan explained the three men were located inside and subsequently arrested. None of them had English and with the assistance of an interpreter they were interviewed four times over a period of two days at Kilkenny and Thomastown Garda Stations where they were co-operative and a plea was indicated at an early stage. A photograph of their living quarters was presented in evidence.
None of the three had previous convictions in this jurisdiction, but Lin Lin had a conviction for selling counterfeit DVD’s in England in 2001.
Garda Gahan said they were at the bottom rung of the ladder but when it was put to him by Senior Counsel Paddy McCarthy (representing Guotai Lin) they’d no home comforts living in the warehouse, he countered, “They also had phones and phone credit and a small amount of money was found. Their job was done and we caught them in time.”
Judge Doyle said it was a very serious case with a massive amount of drugs involved. “There was €870,000 of cannabis herb found but there was also a huge amount of uncultivated plants and they probably had a value of twice that figure or a lot more.”
She did take into account that the defendants spent a year in custody already and insisted it would of no benefit to the Irish state to keep them in prison. “They are vulnerable people and were not involved in drugs before and one has attempted serious self harm while in prison.”
Prosecuting barrister Brian O’Shea indicated the maximum prison sentence Judge Alice Doyle could impose was 14 years and she explained the suspension of their sentences only comes into effect when they are in a position to be deported.
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