Crime in Moray: Cannabis grower Buckie jailed

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A large police presence at the Highlander Hotel on East Church Street in Buckie in the early evening of Sunday September 20. Photo: Eric Cormack.

A Vietnamese man has been sent to jail after almost £1million worth of cannabis was found in a former hotel in Buckie.

The huge loot was discovered in September 2020 after parents whose children attend a nearby primary school reported unusual smells emanating from inside the Highlander Hotel.

Police later obtained a search warrant for the premises which had not been opened since 2019.

As officers moved in, they encountered two men in the building who briefly escaped by breaking through a glass door.

Thong Nguyn (35) and Chien Van Le (28) were arrested and recognized as illegal immigrants.

It was eventually admitted that the couple’s eldest had been a victim of human trafficking.

He is now back in Vietnam having been deported rather than prosecuted.

Meanwhile, his co-defendant was held in custody for almost 22 months while it was determined whether or not he had come to Britain voluntarily.

The sheriffs presiding over the case had grown increasingly impatient with the Department of the Interior for not coming to a conclusion.

However, at Inverness Sheriff Court today, Van Le decided to plead guilty to being involved in the production and supply of cannabis.

Defense lawyer Matthew O’Neill said his client arranged, through smugglers, to travel via Russia, Poland and France, in order to get work in the UK. United.

The married father-of-two was unable to find a job due to his illegal status, but was given the opportunity to work in Buckie by a Vietnamese couple he met in London.

Mr O’Neill added: “He was told that people with links to the Asian community had set up an operation at the Highlander Hotel to develop what he had been told was medicine.

“He indicated he should have known it was not a legal operation, but in his position he felt he had to accept it.”

Police officers clean up drug-making equipment.
Police officers clean up drug-making equipment.

The cannabis farm was located in 10 rooms of the former three-story hotel.

Meanwhile, another room, filled with electrical equipment, was used to dry the leaves that hung from the ceiling and spread out on the floor.

After the raid, a dozen drug-filled evidence bags were packed into the back of a police van, with officers appearing to struggle to find space for them all.

Tax MP David Morton said 1,140 cannabis plants were recovered, 300 of which turned out to be worthless.

The remaining plants were valued between £200 and £810, giving an overall market value of £923,000.

After hearing the facts, Sheriff Robert Macdonald imprisoned Van Le for 38 months.

This sentence has been backdated to September 22, 2020.


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