True scale of modern day slavery exposed as police smash city centre cannabis farm
Vietnamese men are jailed for running a cannabis farm – while being locked in the flat by gangmasters. Modern day slaves were found running a massive cannabis farm in the heart of Manchester.
The two men were found barricaded inside a flat above a shop with hundreds of illicit crops on Withy Grove in Shudehill – yards from the Printworks and opposite the Arndale.
The two-storey apartment where they were living had been converted into an industrial scale farm, capable of producing thousands of pounds worth of marijuana.
Now the pair, Phan Vang Hung, 39, and Nguyen Huu-Minh, 35, have been jailed for twenty months for producing cannabis by Recorder Olivia Magennis, who described the operation as ‘sophisticated’.
Both are expected to deported to their native Vietnam on their release.
Manchester Crown Court heard the two men had each spent months journeying from Vietnam to the UK in lorries, before being recruited to look after the farm in Manchester.
But once they took up the job they were paid only in food and locked in the flat by gangmasters, who have not been caught.
Brian Berlyne, prosecuting, told court the farm on the outskirts of the Northern Quarter was discovered on Wednesday by police, who found the door wedged shut with planks of wood. In total 468 plants were recovered from the property.
Nicola Hall, defending Van Hung, said: “He has a wife and two children in Vietnam. His wife has heart problems, there’s no free health care in Vietnam and his children required education, so he travelled to Europe in order to support them.
“As his co-defendant did, he spent seven months travelling to the UK, in the hope he would be able to get legitimate employment in either a warehouse or restaurant. It was only when he couldn’t get legitimate work that this particular job was offered to him.
“There was no fixed sum of money offered, and it was in the hope of possibly getting some money that he went through with it. He actually was never paid any money, instead he found himself locked in this flat. He was provided with food and a place to live, but nothing more than that.
“He simply wants to return to Vietnam at the earliest opportunity. He doesn’t speak any English. In an example of the difficulties he faces in the prison system they are given menu choices to decide what they can eat. He can’t read that – he doesn’t know, day in day out, what he can eat.”
Adrian Palmer, defending, said Huu-Minh had paid £10,000 to get to the UK via Russia, ‘exiting off the back of a lorry’.
“He was resident with the Vietnamese diaspora in London and Leeds before arriving in this city three months ago”, Mr Palmer said.
“About a month ago he became aware there was a potential for a job to house-sit and tend the cannabis plants. He wasn’t trafficked for that purpose, but by that time his financial position was poor. His involvement was through naivety or exploitation, falling short of trafficking. This rather sad, sorry individual has led a lonesome existence for the last month.”