Cannabis seized at Pyalong property

By Colin MacGillivray

POLICE have charged two Vietnamese nationals residing unlawfully in Australia with drug trafficking and theft offences after nearly 200 cannabis plants were seized at a Pyalong property.

Pyalong police, with the assistance of Mitchell Crime Investigation Unit and division response units, searched a property at 3 Nicholson Street, Pyalong at about 12.16pm on Monday last week.

Investigators found what Mitchell Police Service Area Local Area Commander Inspector Peter Koger described as ‘an extensive, sophisticated set up of hydroponically-grown cannabis in four rooms of the house’.

Insp Koger said an electricity bypass was attached to the property’s power supply, which was used to avoid payment for power use at the home.

Police seized 189 cannabis plants, deemed a commercial quantity and estimated at a value of more than $750,000.

Insp Koger said Vietnamese nationals Minh Van Phan and Nga My Tran, both of St Albans, were arrested in connection with the investigation and transported to Seymour Police Station, where they were interviewed with the aid of a Vietnamese interpreter.

Phan, 44, and Tran, 42, were charged with trafficking and possessing a commercial quantity of cannabis, as well as electricity theft.

The pair was remanded in custody to appear at Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday last week, where they were further remanded for a committal mention on April 20.

Insp Koger said police had begun to investigate the property earlier in January, using the air wing to conduct a thermal evaluation of the building and completing an electricity check with the assistance of Powercor.

He said cannabis-growing operations similar to the one found at Pyalong were not unusual, but could be dangerous.

“It’s quite common for someone to rent a property and then use it for the sole purpose of cultivating cannabis like that,” he said.

“We do have a lot of fires from cannabis crops, particularly where they’ve bypassed the power, because they’re not usually set up by a licensed electrician. They’re done ad-hoc by the people who are growing the cannabis crop.

“Quite often they’ll have a fire. It’s very dangerous for the members who are attending as well due to the electrocution risk because it hasn’t been done the right way.”

Insp Koger said due to Phan and Tran’s status as unlawful residents in Australia, they would be deported after court proceedings concluded.

“They will go to court. If they’re found guilty, because they’re not permanent residents they will be deported by Border Security. Once they’re found guilty at the court, that’s the end of it,” he said.