by Alexander Zhang on zerohedge.com
Nearly 1,000 suspects have been arrested and cannabis plants worth £130 million seized in a largest-ever UK-wide crackdown on cannabis farms, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said on Thursday.
The “unprecedented” police action—codenamed Operation Mille—was aimed at unearthing and disrupting organised crime groups and their illegal revenue streams, and was the “most significant national operation of its kind ever run across UK law enforcement,” said the NPCC.
All 43 police forces across England and Wales were involved in the operation along with Regional Organised Crime Units and partner agencies.
From 1,013 raids on large-scale cannabis grows throughout June, nearly 200,000 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of £115-130 million were seized, along with 20 firearms, £636,000 in cash, and 26 kilogrammes of cocaine.
Some 967 suspects were arrested for offences including cannabis cultivation, money laundering, and weapons offences. More than 450 were later charged.
Steve Jupp, the NPCC lead for serious and organised crime, said: “We know that organised networks involved in cannabis production are also directly linked to an array of other serious criminality such as Class A drug importation, modern slavery, and wider violence and exploitation.
“This operation not only successfully disrupted a significant amount of criminal activity, but the intelligence gathered will also help inform future law enforcement across the country.”
‘Key Source of Illicit Income’
Police said that large-scale cannabis cultivations is a “key source of illicit income for organised gangs.”
“The links between serious crime and those involved in cannabis cultivation are clear, with the drugs trade fuelling gang violence as groups compete for territory and look to hunt out their opposition,” said the NPCC.
Mr. Jupp said:
“Cannabis-related crime is often thought to be ‘low level.’ However, there are clear patterns around the exploitation and violence organised crime groups are using to protect their enterprises.
“We also frequently find that cannabis production is just one aspect of their criminal operations and that they are complicit in wider offending which blights our communities.”
Cannabis factories also present a “very real local threat,” said the police, as they often cause damage to the properties they are based in—the buildings can become dangerous as a result of fire risks, unlawful abstraction of electricity, fumes, and water damage.
The Epoch Times reported in February that there had been a growth in cannabis factories in Britain as criminals decided to cultivate the drug in Britain, rather than trying to import it.read more