Three jailed over cannabis factories

An image of a cannabis plant
An image of a cannabis plant

Three Chinese nationals have been sentenced to a total of six and a half years for running “substantial’’ cannabis cultivation factories in Belfast.

Li Guang Liu, 49, of Hughenden Avenue, Belfast, pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court to a total of six charges including cultivation of cannabis plants, possession of the drugs with intent to supply and dishonestly using electricity.

Yan Fang Cao, 30, also of Hughenden Avenue, and Liu Yiyan, of India Street, Belfast, both pleaded guilty to cultivating cannabis.

Prosecution lawyer Kate McKay said that in April 2014 police launched an investigation into the cultivation of cannabis and the three defendants, who were all in Northern Ireland illegally, had been observed at a number of addresses.

Three weeks after the operation started, the fire brigade were called to a property at Greenville Road, Belfast on April 29 following reports of a gas leak.

“When they arrived they discovered a cannabis factory. There were 117 plants which were spread over two rooms.’’

Ms McKay said that as part of police follow up operations, officers searched a house at Hughenden Avenue where a further 675 plants were found spread across six rooms of the house, including some which were ready for harvest.

During police interviews, Cao and Yiyan claimed that there were employed as “gardeners’’ and were receiving between £20-£30 per day.

Defence lawyer Sean O’Hare for Guang Liu said he had a much higher role in that he was the “foreman’’ for the operation.

Guang Liu was sentenced to two years and six months, with Cao and Yijan each receiving two years.