A RAID on a disused pub uncovered one of the largest cannabis factories East Lancashire has ever seen.

Over 1,200 cannabis plants were seized by police during the raid at the Merrie England pub on St Huberts Road, Great Harwood.

The owner of the building, Premji Halai, alerted police after he was unable to get into the building.

He said: "I am absolutely devastated. I had to travel up to the property, after the agent could not get into it."

He became suspicious and called the police. When they arrived they found:


* Five of the first-floor rooms were being used as a drug farm.
* 1,200 cannabis plants all at different stages of growth.
* A state-of-the-art lighting and extraction systems, costing an estimated £50,000 to secure maximum growth and eliminate any odours that may alert the police.
* More than 20 bin bags full of cannabis that had already been cultivated
* An electricity supply which was tapped directly into the street mains, by-passing a metre.
*

Officers believe the farm had been in use for at least six months because of the amount of equipment and cannabis found at the scene.

The street value of the drugs is estimated at a massive £200,000.

Great Harwood Community Beat Manager, Ian Durber, said: "There have been absolutely no complaints from people who live in this area. I walk past this pub every day on my beat and I have never noticed anything, I just don’t know how they got away with it."

Sergeant Steve Bury, of Eastern Division Operational Support Unit, said that the operation was one of the biggest he had ever seen.

He said: "This was a very sophisticated set up. These people knew what they were doing.

"With the amount of equipment that was brought into the building its hard to believe that nobody saw anything. We have done a door-to-door knock but found nothing apart from one woman who saw a couple of people enter the pub."

In the pub one room was full of around 300 small plants, another was packed with hundreds of medium sized plants while another room had mature plants. The other two rooms had already been cultivated.

Police believe the cannabis growers are of Vietnamese origin after links with similarly-organised set-ups in the area.

The gang is thought to have broken into the pub through a fire exit shortly after the pub ceased trading eight months ago.

Sergeant Bury said police are keen to speak to anyone who has seen anything suspicious going on at the pub.

Anyone with information can call 0845 1 253545.


* A 39-year-old man from China has been arrested on suspicion of the production of a class C drugs and the possession of counterfeit DVDs and cigarettes.

He has been released on police bail while further inquiries are carried out.