A sophisticated hydroponic cannabis system was discovered by police at the Victoria Hotel last week.MONIQUE FREER September 3, 2014 3:55am
A sophisticated hydroponic cannabis system that is suspected to be part of a Melbourne-based drug syndicate was uncovered by police at the Victoria Hotel last Tuesday.
Electrical items, light shades, growing containers and remnants of the cultivation were found in 21 rooms of the Carrier St building. About 100 stripped and harvested cannabis plants were also found, the estimated value of which would have been $400
Responding to a report of damage to the hotel, Benalla police discovered the sophisticated system and members of the Crime Investigation Unit executed a search warrant.
Benalla Police CIU Detective Acting Sergeant Simon Hunter said the level of sophistication of the hydroponic system indicated that it was part of a bigger drug ring.
‘‘The way that it was set up indicates that it was part of an organised syndicate, most likely from Melbourne,’’ he said.
‘‘The drugs definitely weren’t sold in Benalla, they would have been shipped up and taken to Melbourne.’’
‘‘This sort of stuff happens all the time in Melbourne, they’ll have 10 houses on the go,’’ he said.
‘‘There was one in Mansfield last year that was similar and of a similar size.
‘‘Whether it’s the same people or not I couldn’t say but the same sort of techniques.’’
Sgt Hunter said it appeared the premises were used for cannabis cultivation between February and August this year.
‘‘The set up would have required extensive preparation and planning and it is believed the offenders were there for some time,’’ he said.
The premises were leased from the owner of the building to some tenants through a real estate agency from Melbourne in January this year.
Investigations are now taking place to identify the tenants, who are suspected to have used false names and documents to secure the lease of the property.
‘‘We’ve taken witness statements in relation to it, and appropriate inquiries are being made as to the identity of the tenants,’’ Sgt Hunter said.
‘‘Police are appealing for persons who may have witnessed anything that may be related to the cultivation of cannabis at the hotel.’’
Victoria Police forensic investigators spent last Wednesday at the hotel with members of Benalla Police and Benalla Crime Investigation Unit.
Members from Ausnet Services also attended the scene to rectify illegal electrical work installed.
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