€200k cannabis operation uncovered in two Mullingar west houses

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Zhou Li outside Athlone District Court on Wednesday.

Zhou Li outside Athlone District Court on Wednesday.

A man arrested in Mullingar on Monday evening was charged in Athlone on Wednesday (January 11 ) with the cultivation of a “sophisticated” cannabis factory set up in Ardleigh Park.

Further charges are expected to be brought on Zhou Li (28 ), a Chinese national with Cypriot residency, after the surveillance operation led gardaí to a second such factory in Clonmore Heights. The confiscated contraband is estimated to have a street value of up to €200,000.

Detective Garda David Mead gave evidence that in his reply to charge Li stated: “I did not know it was drugs. I got involved with no knowledge of this”.

Garda Mead opposed bail as the defendant was illegally in Ireland, having arrived from Cyprus on December 18, 2009 and was due to have returned on July 23, 2010.

“He is currently of no fixed abode. He took this job for five weeks and was due to leave in two weeks,” said Garda Mead who explained how Li had been living in a third house in Ardilaun Green during this period.

“The house he was living in was rented by another,” said Garda Mead, who then told the judge that the State was satisfied all three properties were rented by the same person.

“So he was an employee?” asked Judge Seamus Hughes.

“Correct,” confirmed Garda Mead.

“A very, very small cog in this wheel,” was how Li’s defending solicitor, Mr Padraig Quinn described his client.

He went on to say that as Gardaí had his client’s passport and were satisfied with his identity, he was seeking bail for Li who was looking to stay at an address with friends in Dublin.

Garda Mead opposed this and Judge Hughes sided with him. He remanded Li in custody to re-appear at a special sitting of Mullingar District Court this morning (January 13 ).



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