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1 October 2010, 05:30
Nine people have been sentenced to a total of 23 and a half years in prison following an operation to crackdown on the production, cultivation and distribution of illegal drugs in the county.
A number of warrants were carried out across Norwich over two days in September 2009 with five cannabis factories discovered in Gertrude Road, Barrett Road, Harmer Road and Sprowston Road.
As a result of the raids, the six men and three women, of both Vietnamese and Pakistani origin, were charged with the offence of conspiracy to supply controlled drugs.
The managers of this group Mohammed Rafiq, aged 34, and Mohammed Saghir, aged 51, are Pakistani and received a total sentence of 10 and half years, whilst the other seven Ngoch-bich Nguyen, aged 27, Hai- Nam Pham, aged 41 years, Hoang Nguyen, aged 18, Hao Nam Tran, aged 18, Tho Thi Nguyen, aged 35, Loc Van Nguyen, aged 27 and Thu-Thrang Thi Nguyen, aged 17, who are Vietnamese and had entered the country illegally received a total of 13 years. The size of their business was substantial and officers seized more than three thousand cannabis plants from the five addresses. Estimates put the expected turnover from this business to have netted the criminals £1 million in 2009 alone.
Operation Cleopatra saw the offenders using domestic houses for the cultivation of cannabis and each room would be used for the different stages of production. Evidence showed that Mohammed Rafiq and Mohammed Saghir purchased various equipment and bypassed electricity to aid the production whilst the others named were seen moving this in and out of the properties.
Detective Sgt Richard Dickinson, Bethel Street CID, commented on the sentencing saying: "This operation targeted an organised group of offenders who were producing a significant amount of illegal drugs. The enquiry, which was intelligence led, was successful on many levels with the help we received from the Drugs and Serious Crime team and members of our local communities making a particular difference. Our message is if you are thinking of coming to Norfolk to commit crime then our combined efforts will ensure you are not successful."
He added, “We believe the closure of the factories seriously inconvenienced the drug dealing networks, but there is still more to be done – and I can assure those individuals that persist in this type of illegal activity, they will be tracked down and stopped."