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Canberra drug cook pleads guilty to manufacturing MDMA in Hume lab

A man arrested over a commercial-grade drug lab uncovered in Canberra's south has pleaded guilty to manufacturing ecstasy. 

Stanley Hou, 36, was due to fight charges related to the clandestine operation at a Hume warehouse in an ACT Supreme Court trial this week.

But that trial was abandoned when Hou pleaded guilty on Wednesday to manufacturing MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, trafficking 71 grams of the drug and possessing 32 litres of precursor chemical nitromethane​.

The laboratory was discovered when neighbours reported chemical odours coming from Hou's unit to an ACTEW Water trade waste officer, who was investigating a possible chemical spill at the property in August 2014.

Hou spoke to the waste officer when he knocked, coming outside and closing the door behind him. 

The worker noticed Hou's eyes were red and, growing increasingly suspicious, he alerted police and WorkSafe ACT. 


Police who raided the Sheppard Street building immediately noticed a strong chemical smell and saw glass beakers, drums of chemicals, a heating element, a small work station and laboratory equipment.

Officers seized breathing apparatus, face masks, beakers, funnels, cylinders, flasks, commercial-grade hot plates, commercial stirrers and white chemical suits. 

They also examined a laptop that belonged to Hou and discovered internet searches for phrases including "how to grow MDMA crystals" and "lab supply".

Police said Hou's fingerprints were found on the computer, as well as two glass flasks and a heating mantle found at the warehouse. 

He initially pleaded not guilty to drug offences and had been released on bail. A trial was set to begin on Tuesday.

But Hou pleaded guilty to the three offences, and several other charges were dropped, after he reached an agreement with prosecutors. 

Crown prosecutor Sara Gul argued Hou's bail should now be revoked, given the offences would attract a jail term. 

"There is an inevitability, not just a likelihood, of the offender being given a sentence of imprisonment," she said. 

Hou's defence barrister David Dalton said his client wanted some time to put his affairs in order before he went behind bars.

He pointed out his client had appeared in court knowing he faced full-time imprisonment if he pleaded guilty.

Acting Justice David Robinson ordered Hou be remanded in custody. Hou asked to say goodbye to family members inside the court before police took him away. 

A pre-sentence report and a forensic psychologist's report will be prepared before his next court appearance.

Hou is set to be sentenced in May.