POLICE disrupted 195 cannabis cultivations in County Durham last year, many operated by organised crime groups, a court was told.

The potential yield of those illicit growths, had they not been compromised by police action, was put at between £4.7m and £14m.

Those figures emerged during a sentencing hearing at Durham Crown Court for two men, illegally trafficked from Vietnam, who acted as “farmers” at one of those disrupted operations.

Nam Dan Nguin, 23, and 28-year-old Muoy Van Tram were arrested when police raided a privately rented house in Standerton Terrace, in The Middles, near Stanley, on Monday June 7.

Police recovered a total of 230 cannabis plants in various stages of growth at the sophisticated set-up, aided by lighting, watering, fans and other paraphernalia.

The pair, who have been in custody in Durham Prison since their arrest, denied a charge of producing a quantity of cannabis.

But, after a four-day trial at the court, last month, both were found guilty by the jury.

Joe Hedworth, for the Crown, who outlined the figures given to the court, said given the “volume of plants” involved he considered they played a, “significant role” in the operation.

Helen Towers, for Tram, argued he performed a “limited function”, given that he was only at the property for ten days, was under the direction of others and had limited awareness of the scale of the operation.

Miss Towers said he was, effectively, treated as little more than a slave, having only recently arrived in the country after five years being trafficked across Asia and Europe, put in “squalid” living conditions and with only £40 to his name.

Jamie Adams, for Nguin, said given the conditions in which they were living, they were, “clearly under the direction of others”.

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Judge James Adkin described it as, “a very large, highly sophisticated” cannabis farm and the defendants were employed, “to grow the crop and harvest it.”

He told their counsel: “It seems to me both defendants must have been aware of the scale of the operation.

“Both must have been motivated by the expectation of some reward.”

Judge Adkin said he did not consider being a “farmer” in such an operation was necessarily performing, “a limited function”.

Imposing sentences of 27 months, on Nguin, and 18 months, on Tram, Judge Adkin told them, speaking via a Vietnamese interpreter: “Your positions are made worse by the prevalence of this sort of offending in County Durham.

“There were 195 cannabis cultivations disrupted by police in this county in 2021 and the value of them could have been between £4.7m and £14m.

“Growing cannabis is clearly big business for Durham organised crime groups.”

He told the jailed pair that half-way through their sentences they would be taken to secure accommodation and deported from the UK.

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