Three members of a drugs cultivation gang have pleaded guilty to their roles in running a multi-million euro cannabis farm in a disused nuclear bunker in the south west of England.
Martin Fillery, Plamen Nguyen and Ross Winter admitted to conspiracy to produce class B drugs and abstracting electricity illegally during a hearing at Salisbury Crown Court on Friday.
Officers from Wiltshire Police raided the 20-room compound in February, discovering 4,000 cannabis plants estimated to be capable of producing drugs worth an estimated £2 million (€2.27 million) every year.
Fillery, Nguyen and Winter were arrested on suspicion of modern slavery and drug offences. The slavery charges were later dropped due a lack of evidence.
A number of Vietnamese men who were found working at the site were released without charge after police said they had been forced to work in slave-like conditions at the massive cannabis factory.
During the course of the men’s trial, police said its members had illegally abstracted electricity worth an estimated £250,000, allowing them to produce a crop of cannabis every six weeks.
The gang had set up living quarters for its workers, nurseries for young cannabis plants and drying rooms to prepare drugs for sale.
In the aftermath of the raid on the compound, police said the Vietnamese men working there were living in conditions that would be “grim for anyone”, with no natural light or running water.
Detectives staked out the RGHQ cold war-era Chilmark bunker, which was built in the 1980s to protect officials in the event of a nuclear strike.
After observing the three suspects coming and going, they moved in to arrest them, catching them in possession of keys for the compound, which had been abandoned by the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
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 six weeks.”
Fillery also confessed possessing criminal property, and is now likely to face a proceeds of crime hearing.
The three men are likely to face lengthy custodial sentences when they are sentenced on 11 August.