Monday 11 December 2017 01:01:47 PM

Cannabis Factory Raided By Police near Castlewellan
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Police have raided a property in Ballyward near Castlewellan under Operation GERBER and a large quantity of drugs have been seized and seven of men and one woman were  arrested.
A large quantity of cannabis was seized near Castlewellan.

A large quantity of cannabis was seized near Castlewellan.

Detectives from the PSNI’s Organised Crime Branch seized cannabis with an estimated street value of £350.000 in a multi-agency, intelligence-led operation against an organised crime group in Northern Ireland yesterday (Tuesday 21 May).

Eight people were arrested, and eleven premises searched across Co Down including in Newry,  Co Antrim and the Greater Belfast areas. Also,  £7,500 cash and a number of vehicles being used by the crime group were seized.  Five of the suspects remain in custody and are being questioned by detectives and three have been subsequently released on police bail pending further enquiries.

Detective Chief Superintendent Roy McComb, Head of PSNI Organised Crime Branch, said: “We are delighted with the seizure of these drugs and the number of arrests which have been made. We believe we have dismantled an organised crime group and greatly reduced the threat posed by drugs to communities in Northern Ireland and by the dangers posed by cannabis cultivation.

“We have been working closely with colleagues in the Serious Organised Crime Agency for a considerable length of time.  The commitment and skills of SOCA has greatly assisted the work of the PSNI in this and other investigations.

“Detectives from the PSNI’s Organised Crime Branch searched a property in the Ballyward area of Castlewellan and uncovered cannabis plants estimated to be worth £350,000.  In follow up searches in Greater Belfast, Newry and Glenavy areas cash and seven vehicles were seized.

“Suspects are being interviewed. In addition, along with our partner agencies we will be looking at the possibility of seizing assets. I believe this operation is a demonstration of the Police Service’s determination to protect our communities from harm.”

The men arrested were aged between 30 and 50, and the woman was aged 49.  The 49year old woman and two men aged 39 and 50 have been released on police bail pending further enquiries.

The number of Seizures of Cannabis Plants (50 and above)

YearNo. of SeizuresPlants SeizedStreet Value
2012          277,995£3,997,500

The number of persons arrested and charged with cultivating cannabis

YearPersons ArrestedPersons Charged
2012231148
South Down MLA Seán Rogers has congratulated the police on the drugs find.

South Down MLA Seán Rogers has congratulated the police on the drugs find.

South Down MLA Seán Rogers (SDLP) has spoken out following reports of the very significant drugs seizure which took place in Ballyward yesterday.

Mr Rogers said:  “I wish to pay tribute to the PSNI for the hard work and commitment which would have went into such an attack on organised crime in South Down.

“I understand that eight people have been arrested following the discovery of the cannabis factory in Ballyward. It has been estimated that the drugs seized would have a street value of £350,000.  Seven vehicles worth more than £100k have also been seized and now form part of this investigation.

“It is hard to believe that this type of criminal activity is taking place in such a picturesque location.  However, I am pleased that these drugs have now been removed from our streets.

“This good news story is evidence of what the police can achieve when the community work with them.  As a consequence the streets of South Down are much safer with this quantity of illegal substances removed from circulation.”

Sinn Féin Welcome Drugs Seizure

Sinn Féin councillor Pól OGribin has welcomed the seizure of drugs on Tuesday.

 Councillor O’Gribin said: “I’d would like to thank the PSNI for their good work in discovering and seizing the quantity of drugs and for taking these types of individuals off the streets.

“It is my understanding that this is a gang of criminals that have organised withiin our community and this is simply unacceptable. These type of people are not welcome in the area and it will be a relief to locals and parents that they have now been arrested.

“I would encourage anyone in the community that have information on this, or any similar type of activity to bring it forward to the police so that they may deal with it effectively.”