Two Vietnamese men have been sentenced to a total of 22 years for the possession and cultivation of almost €1.5 million worth of cannabis – in one of the biggest drugs cases in the history of Kerry.
Tran Hoa and Cao Son Nguyen were jailed at Tralee Circuit Court for operating what was described as a very sophisticated drugs enterprise in a Tralee warehouse.
The court heard that the premises in which almost 1,800 cannabis plants were being cultivated had living quarters, a gym, a kitchen and a purpose-built escape hatch in the roof.
On October 21st, 2013, gardaí searched a large warehouse at the Clash Industrial Estate, Tralee. They used an angle grinder to open the doors which were locked from the inside.
They saw the accused men trying to flee via an escape hatch in the roof but both were apprehended.
Inside, gardaí found almost 1,800 cannabis plants at various stages of maturity along with dozens of lights, fans, socket points and thermometers.
The drugs had an estimated street value of €1.43 million but gardaí estimate that some €1 million worth of drugs had already been processed in the building. There was a gym, a well-stocked kitchen, an internet connection and laptops in the living quarters.
Tran Hoa and Cao Son Nguyen were taken into custody over two years ago but their sentencing was delayed amid claims by Mr Hoa that he had been recently trafficked to Ireland. However Sgt Declan Liddane told the court that after an intensive investigation, this had been found not to be the case.
Judge Tom O’Donnell said the pair were operating a sophisticated enterprise and had been caught red-handed.
He sentenced Mr Nguyen to ten years with four years suspended while Mr Hoa – who the judge said hadn’t been fully cooperative with gardaí – was sentenced to twelve years with six years suspended.