Three men have been jailed for turning a nuclear bunker into the “largest cannabis factory to be found in the south of England”, capable of producing £2 million worth of the drug each year.
Martin Fillery, 46, Plamen Nguyen, 27, and Ross Winter, 31, admitted conspiracy to produce class B drugs and abstracting electricity at the RGHQ (Regional General Headquarters) Chilmark, Wiltshire.
Fillery was jailed for eight years, while Winter and Nguyen were each sentenced to five years in prison.
Sentencing them at Salisbury Crown Court, Judge Keith Cutler said: “Each of you has played a part in what amounts to one of the most serious crimes that this area has seen for a long while.
“Chilmark is essentially an English village, picture book beauty. It’s also the spiritual home for Wiltshire as Salisbury Cathedral is built from Chilmark stone.
“In return you in your own way have decided to use this large nuclear bunker to carry out the production on an industrial scale of cannabis.”
The farm was capable of producing £2m worth of cannabis each year, the court heard.
The area had been “built and designed as a nuclear bunker to be used by important personnel coming from the Army headquarters in the event of a nuclear war,” said Charles Thomas, prosecuting.
The building was decommissioned in the 1990s.
According to Mr Thomas, Fillery leased the building in 2013 and originally used it as a storage facility for his business selling movie and TV memorabilia.
But in February, following a tip-off by a delivery driver who reported a cannabis smell, police found 4,425 plants at all stages of production.
They also found 6,500 dead used plants with a total value of £1.25m.
Mr Thomas said that about 20kg of harvested and dried cannabis was also found, with a value of about £99,000.
“That puts the enterprise in category A of the guidelines as a production of cannabis on an industrial scale,” he said.
Fillery, of Ashcott, Bridgwater, Somerset, was also found in possession of criminal property – movie memorabilia worth £1m – at his home.
Fillery had a “leading role”, according to the prosecutor, while Winter, of Maytree Avenue, Bristol, provided transport and Nguyen, of Horfield, Bristol, acted as a liaison.
Wiltshire Police dropped charges of modern slavery – stemming from the presence in the farm of four Vietnamese men employed as gardeners – due to a lack of evidence.
(c) Sky News 2017: Three men jailed for turning nuclear bunker into £2m-a-year cannabis factory