Northern Ireland’s first-ever underground cannabis factory was under police surveillance for six months, the High Court heard yesterday.
Officers swooped on the purpose-built subterranean complex containing £350,000 worth of drugs after covertly recording suspects, prosecutors said.
Five men were arrested in the operation at a shed on the Derryneil Road, Ballyward, Castlewellan, on May 21.
One of them, Mark Cavanagh, faces charges of cultivating and possessing cannabis with intent to supply.
The 39-year-old, of Killutagh Rise, Glenavy, was refused bail by Lord Justice Coghlin who said planning chiefs would have been impressed by the factory’s sophisticated construction.
Searches of the premises uncovered a pit area leading off into three separate rooms containing drugs at different stages of growth. A total of 600 plants were seized. Walls were professionally fitted, wired and connected to an electricity source 80 metres away.
“The police have been carrying out an operation and recorded evidence within the last six months over a series of dates,” prosecution barrister Fiona O’Kane said.
She claimed surveillance footage shows Cavanagh at the scene, and audio recordings of him “in the bowels” of the shed.
The accused denies either any involvement in the cannabis-growing operation or witnessing any illegal activity.