Boss of multi-million drug syndicate jailed
THE boss of a multimillion-dollar marijuana syndicate ran the sophisticated business like a “franchise operation”, a court has heard.
Khac Dung Nguyen, 45, appeared alongside his “site manager” Quang Le, 40, in Brisbane District Court on Thursday where both pleaded guilty to one charge of drug trafficking,
Nguyen, who was arrested in 2015 while on holidays on Hamilton Island, was the “top of the syndicate” who used equipment from an industrial shed at Acacia Ridge to establish 33 grow houses across Queensland.
Crown prosecutor Susan Hedge said the exact profit of the syndicate was not known but police had uncovered 80kg of loose marijuana and 682kg of marijuana plants at the grow houses – worth up to $12 million.
There was also $960,000 in cash stashed at the Brisbane shed, $560,000 in a bank and about $220,000 in debts owed to the enterprise, which only operated for six months in 2015.
The court heard Nguyen paid Le a meagre wage of $3000 a month to manage the Acacia Ridge site and would travel from Melbourne regularly to check in on the business.
Once the grow houses were established, the people in charge would pay the syndicate in either cash or marijuana.
Ms Hedge argued that the “vertical integration” of the business allowed Nguyen to maintain a greater control of the supply, making it more sophisticated than a “buy and sell” operation.
But Nguyen’s defence barrister Tony Glynn argued that the essence of drug trafficking was the distribution of drugs – and his client’s syndicate could not be said to have been operating at a higher level.
Mr Glynn told the court that Nguyen had absolutely no criminal record and had originally opened the shed as a legitimate hydroponics business.
Le’s defence barrister Penny White told the court that her client also had no criminal history and had moved from Melbourne under the impression he was working for a legitimate business.
“He didn’t come to Brisbane with the knowledge that he was going to be partaking in a cannabis trafficking business,” she said.
“He came to Brisbane because he needed a job and he thought he was working in a hydroponics business.”
Ms White said Le was “ashamed and embarrassed” about his offending and that he continued to work for Nguyen after he discovered that it was actually a syndicate.
Judge William Everson said while the “precise magnitude” of the syndicate’s financial gain was unclear, it was profitable.
“(It was) a sophisticated drug syndicate that involved production of a substantial amount of cannabis,” he said
Nguyen, who had already served 10 months in jail, was sentenced to eight years’ jail and will be eligible for parole on September 14, 2021.
Le was sentenced to five years, 11 months’ jail and will be eligible for parole on October 14, 2021. – NewsRegional