ACT News

Vulnerable illegal immigrants recruited to work on cannabis grow house, court hears

Two vulnerable, poorly educated immigrants were recruited from Sydney to work on a sophisticated cannabis grow house in Canberra for free, a court has heard.

Aifeng Zhang, 51, and Zhezhu Quan, 45, were in Australia illegally when they were first recruited to work on the hydroponic setup in Flynn.

Police seized more than $2.5 million worth of cannabis plants when they raided Canberra houses in April.
Police seized more than $2.5 million worth of cannabis plants when they raided Canberra houses in April.  Photo: ACT Policing

They were romantically involved and vulnerable to exploitation, speaking little English, out of work, and isolated in Australia, the court heard.

There was no evidence they were being paid for their work on the crop.

They also had no intention to sell the drugs themselves, but knew others would.

Quan bore the most responsibility for tending to the plants, while Zhang merely watered the plants on some occasions, and moved a few pots around. 

When police raided the home in April, they found 214 cannabis plants and about 186 seedlings.

The cannabis was hidden behind a false wall, and grown using a network of pots, exhaust fans, pipes, and artificial lights.

Police also found 27 kilograms of packaged cannabis leaf.

It was linked with another house in Evatt, also being maintained by two Chinese nationals. 

That home contained 371 plants, and led to the conviction and sentencing of Chungsheng Li, 48, and Manxin Jin, 52.

Zhang and Quan were sentenced by Chief Justice Helen Murrell in the ACT Supreme Court on Monday.

Chief Justice Murrell said the pair were obviously not the masterminds of the operation. 

She sentenced Quan to two years and three months, backdated to April, when he was first taken into custody.

He will be eligible for release on parole in June next year, but is expected to be deported.

Zhang, who is in poor health, was sentenced to a little more than the time she has served since her arrest in April.

She will be released later this week, but is also expected to be deported.