Warrants were carried out in four properties across London and Essex (credit: Essex Police)
Five Vietnamese nationals, who had been forced to harvest and guard plants in cannabis factories, were found after police carried out warrants in four locations between November 2019 and July 2020.
One location included London Recycling Factory in Barking, where 850 cannabis plants were found.
In total, over 2,000 cannabis plants were seized with an estimated value of over £2 million across the four properties in Rayleigh, Wickford, Clacton and Barking.
Five Vietnamese nationals were found living in appalling conditions in the different areas and have now been safeguarded.
The investigation was led by the Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit, who have been investigating organised crime groups exploiting vulnerable people by forcing them to ‘garden’ and guard cannabis grows.
Officers were joined by charity partners in Justice & Care, who provide Victim Navigators to Essex Police to safeguard victims of modern slavery.
Essex Police executed warrants in four properties (credit: Essex Police)
On Tuesday, 16 November, two years after the operation began, five men were sentenced after pleading guilty to conspiracy to produce cannabis.
David Hall, 37, of Caspian Walk, Beckton was jailed to 3 years and 4 months in prison.
Two others, both from Canvey, were also jailed.
James Jacobs, 39, of Stevens Close, was sentenced to 5 years in prison and Gary Calder, 43, of Whernside Avenue, was sentenced to 3 years and 6 months.
Danny Hicks, 41, of St John’s Road, Clacton, was sentenced to 3 years and 8 months imprisonment.
A fifth man, Terrence Green, 34, of St John’s Road, Clacton, received a suspended sentence of 2 years and 6 months and was ordered to complete 100 unpaid hours of work.
The lead officer for the case, who does not wish to be named, said: “I’m extremely proud of all of the teams who have been involved in the investigation, whose hard work and dedication has helped sentence five men for their crimes and prevented a substantial quantity of cannabis from entering the illegal market.
“Not only this but we were able to safeguard five vulnerable people.
“People trapped in modern slavery have their freedoms taken from them and often have to endure terrible working and living conditions.
“Although we often associate modern slavery with international enterprises, the sad truth is that there are victims across Essex who need our support and perpetrators that need to be brought to justice.
“If you think someone is being exploited, please report it to us or ring the modern slavery helpline on 0800 012 1700.”
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