Three men have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce class B drugs and abstracting electricity following the discovery of a large scale cannabis factory in a nuclear bunker.
Martin Fillery, aged 45, of Pedwell Hill, Ashcott, Bridgwater, Plamen Nguyen, aged 27, of Bartholomews Square, Horfield, Bristol, and Ross Winter, aged 30, of Maytree Avenue, Bristol, appeared at Salisbury Crown Court on Friday 9th June 2017.
On 22 February 2017, officers from the Local Priority Team, carried out a midnightraid on RGHQ Chilmark – an underground nuclear bunker constructed in the 80s to house local government in the event of a nuclear attack during the height of the Cold War.
The site is no longer owned by the Ministry of Defence, however the bunker is still intact and the nuclear blast doors were still in place making the site almost completely impenetrable. Because of this obstacle, officers intercepted the three men as they left having gathered intelligence in relation to the site.
When the men left the site, they were detained. Officers used keys found in their possession to gain entry to the Bunker and found over 4,000 cannabis plants inside with the capability of producing £2 million worth of drugs a year.
In order to keep the factory up and running, the men had bypassed mains electricity into the site, subsequently illegally abstracting approximately £250,000 worth of electricity.
Detective Inspector Simon Pope said: “This was an enormous discovery for our Local Priority Team – I believe it was the biggest cannabis factory we’ve ever had in Wiltshire and the South West region. The isolated and secure nature of the location made the warrant particularly challenging.
“The bunker itself had approximately 20 rooms inside over two floors, and almost every single room had been converted for the wholesale production of cannabis. In addition to the growing rooms, there were drying rooms, nurseries and living quarters for the growers – it was a sophisticated set up with an illegal connection to the mains electrical supply. The lighting equipment alone seized from the site cost in the region of £140,000 and the setup was capable of producing a crop every 6 weeks. In all it took approximately 10 days to completely search and clear the site.
“This investigation was a significant undertaking by Wiltshire police into a highly profitable criminal enterprise. I am delighted that the vast amount of preparation to ensure the warrant was executed successfully paid off, and that through the subsequent hard work of the team we were able to bring these three men to justice.
“I’m really pleased that we have been able to dismantle such a large-scale organised operation running in rural Wiltshire – as a result we have stopped an enormous amount of illegal drugs from reaching the streets of Wiltshire and the South West and causing harm to our communities.
“If you suspect drug activity of any scale in your area, please contact police”.
In addition Martin Fillery pleaded guilty to possession of criminal property (money laundering). He had a significant amount of assets relating to his criminality which after his sentencing will be subject to the proceeds of crime legislation.
The men are due to be sentenced on 11 August 2017.