Northern Ireland

£2.8m of cannabis 'found at house' in Portadown

Nearly £3m worth of suspected herbal cannabis was seized after police uncovered an alleged factory in County Armagh, the High Court has heard.

Hundreds of plants and more than 1,000 stocks were discovered.

Details were disclosed as bail was granted to a Chinese man.

Zhadjin Zhong, 41, of Lakelands, Craigavon, is charged with possession with intent to supply, cultivating and being concerned in the production and supply of cannabis.

When arrested along with two co-accused near his home address on 18 October he was carrying more than £3,700 in cash, prosecutors said.

A car registered to Mr Zhong led police to search another house at Hanover Street, Portadown, where drugs and more money were found.

Equipment believed to be for use in more than one factory was also discovered, along with two suitcases containing vacuum bags.

During that search, an inventory of items for building and maintaining drug-growing operations was seized.

Kate McKay, prosecuting, said a bundle of mail addressed to a property at Thomas Street, Portadown, was recovered as well.

The court heard 310 plants were growing in a bedroom at that location.

Another three rooms were kitted out with 1,080 stocks, as well as pots and compost all found in the search.

According to Mrs McKay, the estimated street value of the herbal cannabis was £2.8m.

Opposing Mr Zhong's application for bail, she said police suspected he and his co-accused were involved in a drug cultivation and supply operation.

It was claimed that he may flee if released because he had no real ties to Northern Ireland.

But Sean Devine, defending, said his client had worked at a restaurant in Armagh for five years.

Mr Zhong was said to be a failed asylum seeker, but Mr Devine said: "It's not the classic case where they just seem to have ghosted in and are found.

"This applicant was here for a prolonged period and enjoys some roots in the community."

Mr Justice Weatherup said a large amount of money had been found on Mr Zhong for someone working in a restaurant.

However, he ruled that the accused could be granted bail on condition that £4,000 is lodged in court and another £10,000 surety obtained.

Mr Zhong was ordered to live at an address in Armagh, given a curfew and told to report to police daily.