Three men have appeared in a British court charged with modern slavery and drug offences after police discovered a huge cannabis factory in a disused nuclear bunker in Wiltshire last week.
Marijuana plants with an estimated street value of £1 million (€1.17 million) were uncovered during a police raid on RGHQ Chilmark late last Tuesday.
A number of Vietnamese men were discovered inside the factory during the raid, who police said were forced to work in slave-like conditions maintaining the vast farm.
The men worked in conditions that would could have been “grim for anyone”, living with no natural light and no access to running water, according to officers.
On Saturday, Martin Fillery, Plamen Nguyen and Ross Winter appeared before Swindon magistrates charged with conspiracy to produce cannabis, and conspiring to hold another person in slavery or servitude.
The Vietnamese men found at the site were released from custody without charge, and told they will face no further action.
The three defendants failed to make bail applications, and were remanded in custody to appear at Salisbury Crown Court at the end of next month.
Speaking after the raid on the 1980s bunker, Detective Inspector Paul Franklin said: “There are approximately 20 rooms in the building, split over two floors, each 200ft long and 70ft wide.
“Almost every single room had been converted for the wholesale production of cannabis plants, and there was a large amount of evidence of previous crops. This was an enormous set-up.
“At this early stage of the investigation it is almost impossible to work out how many plants are inside, but we are talking thousands rather than hundreds, and we would estimate the value of the crop at over £1 million.
“I am convinced it is one of the largest crops ever discovered in Wiltshire.”
While regularly opting for non-descript residential properties in suburban areas to grow their crops, Britain’s cannabis cultivators have a history of choosing unusual settings to host their drug farms.
One Nottingham man housed his cannabis factory in a shipping container buried beneath his back garden. Adrian James used a mechanical digger to bury the container and created a secret tunnel to its entrance from his cellar.
In January of last year, police in Cambridgeshire received a tip-off abut a marijuana factory in a Downton Abbey-style country manor. On visiting the sprawling property, officers found a professional cannabis cultivation operation, which had resulted in the growth of more than 1,000 plants.
Five years ago, it was estimated by the UK’s Association of Chief Police Officers that approximately 21 cannabis farms or factories were being discovered every day. A report from the association said the UK was at “significant risk” from organised criminal gangs cultivating marijuana on a commercial scale in farms and factories across the country.