The secluded location outside of Dublin makes the Midlands a hotbed for the illegal growth of cannabis.
Close to a million euro worth of cannabis has been withheld from the open market following the discovery of three growhouses in Westmeath since Christmas.
The latest discovery at Lough Sheever Business Park last Saturday February 4 was the biggest in the county so far, with plants worth more than €525,000 in a number of rooms in the warehouse, and in various stages of growth.
In some rooms, plants were ready for harvesting and the discovery was made as a result of previous finds, and as part of an ongoing investigation.
At a special criminal sitting of Mullingar District Court on Monday, Detective Garda David Mead described how two Chinese men had been found on the premises where they had been effectively locked in the warehouse for the last number of months.
The men, XiaoLong Shi (42 ) and Xiu Xiang Guo (37 ) of no fixed abode have been charged with cultivation of cannabis and remanded in custody when solicitor Patricia Cronin said she would be making no bail application on their behalf.
Judge Seamus Hughes quizzed Detective Garda Mead about the find, and noted that cannabis cultivation is a growing industry in the Midlands.
It is the third significant case he’s dealt with, following discoveries of plants to the value of €221,000 in Mullingar and €125,000 in Athlone last month.
He asked the detective why this kind of crime is so prevalent in the Midlands, and the reason given by the garda was the secluded nature of the Midlands, located outside of Dublin.
The biggest growhouse found in the history of the State was located in a tiny industrial unit behind a converted church on a back road outside the village of Durrow near Tullamore last month.
There €1.5m cannabis plants were located and three non-nationals were arrested.
Those arrested for the Westmeath offences are all Chinese and have no English or very little English and there were difficulties in all cases of establishing identity.
In January Judge Seamus Hughes made what he called “a general observation”, urging landlords to make a dozen checks, not just check twice or three times, on Chinese nationals who seek to rent their properties.
He said they may find substantial damage, to the value of up to €30,000 to properties that are subsequently used for the growing of cannabis.
He said Gardaí have “their finger on the pulse” when it comes to discovering growhouses, but in the meantime, landlords must be “more circumspect” and he advised against the short-term vision of “not thinking past next month’s rent”.