Operation Violet Panama: Industrial production of class B drug Cannabis

Operation Violet Panama was set up by South Wales Police in 2017 to tackle a group of Vietnamese nationals who were renting a large number of domestic premises in order to produce cannabis on an industrial scale. Commercial premises were also being used for the storage of hydroponic equipment that would be necessary to produce vast quantities of the class B controlled drug. In all some 22 Defendants appeared before the Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court facing charges of conspiring to produce cannabis.

It was determined that such was the scale of the criminality involved in Operation Violet Panama, that upon proceeding to sentence – those Defendants involved at the top end of the conspiracy needed to be sentenced outside of the Sentencing Council’s Definitive Sentencing Guidelines.

At the time of initial arrest police officers recovered sufficient plants to produce between 464kg and 1,394kg of female flowering head cannabis. At conclusion the estimated street value of the cannabis produced was between £5.7 million and £17.2 million.

The case:

In November 2017 South Wales Police, along with partner agencies, carried out a day of action targeting addresses used by the Organised Crime Group (OCG). The addresses included a residential address that doubled as the hub of the operation, a number of residential addresses that were being used as cannabis factories and premises used for the storage of hydroponics equipment.

The police involvement followed covert observations that had lasted several weeks. During the period of observation the identities of those involved were unknown, pseudonyms were used to record movements and to establish links with the various addresses. Over 15 separate addresses were found to have links to the OCG at Cardiff, Swansea, Aberdare, Caerphilly, Llanelli and Lampeter.

SCM Law acted for one of the Defendants in Operation Violet Panama. Our involvement included representation at the police station, Magistrates Court and as Solicitor Advocate at the Crown Court. The case itself involved considering and evaluating served evidence from the Crown Prosecution Service of over 100,000 pages. SCM Law also acted for the client in relation to an application made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2003 of a benefit figure of in excess of £1.8 Million.