Migrants were 'tricked' into cannabis work

Tue, Dec 11, 2012, 00:00

Two economic migrants who answered a gardening job advertisement were tricked into living in primitive and horrendous conditions in a cannabis growing operation, a court has heard.

The two men, who both came from peasant farming families in China, answered advertisements in a Chinese newspaper offering jobs as flower growers here.

The men were forced to live in an industrial lock-up in close proximity to chemicals with high levels of humidity and noise created by the air conditioning system installed to grow the plants.

Xiabin Huang (30) and Yong Chen (35), both of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the cultivation of cannabis plants at Millennium Business Park, Cappagh Road, Ballycoolin, on March 7th, 2012.

‘Crime of desperation’

The 900 plants discovered at the industrial unit had an estimated total value of about €800,000.

One of the men was never paid the money he was promised for his work.

Judge Martin Nolan said the men were economic migrants who had carried out a “crime of desperation”. He imposed sentences of two years on both men.

He said that the men, who are both fathers, came to this country to better their lives.

Garda Colm Grogan told Dean Kelly, defending Huang, that the men shared a mattress on the floor and had only a hand basin to wash themselves.

Living conditions

He described their living conditions as “horrendous”. The unit had been fitted out with fluorescent lights, fertilisers and extractor fans to grow the plants.

On one occasion when Huang left the unit to meet with his wife, the owners of the operation threatened both him and his wife. Garda Grogan said this was a serious threat.

Feargal Kavanagh SC, defending Chen, said that money lenders in China had lent his client money to come to Ireland and that since this offence, they have taken the home of Chen’s family.

He said his client stupidly believed he could make a lot of money by taking care of plants and that he only realised it was a big cannabis operation when he arrived here. His client felt sorry for his crime and aggrieved at ever taking the job offer because it was turned out to be a “complete disaster”.