A cannabis farm whose output was estimated at ?1 million a year has been discovered in what was once a nuclear bunker. Regional Government Headquarters (RGHQ) Chilmark was constructed in 1985 to serve in the event of a nuclear attack, housing government personnel who oversaw the counties of Avon, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset. It left service in 1992 and is now no longer owned by the Ministry of Defence.
Wiltshire Police described the facility as ?almost completely impenetrable,? with officers staging a midnight raid on Wednesday 22 February 2017 when the suspects left, allowing their keys to be used to gain entry; doors to the building were designed to withstand a nuclear blast and could not just be kicked in.. Martin Fillery, 45, from Somerset, and Plamen Nguyen, 27 and Ross Winter, 30, from Bristol, were arrested but must have been pleased to have been covered by CNN.
My! That’s a big one!
There are 20 rooms on two floors, all 200 feet long and 70 feet wide. Virtually everyone was used for cannabis cultivation, so there were thousands of plants, which Det Insp Paul Franklin termed an ?enormous setup? and the largest cannabis farm he had ever encountered. Cultivation had evidently been going on for a while. Electricity was also abstracted, and the arrestees were charged for it, but the farm was found after an anonymous tipoff.
They were slavers, too
The three men arrested were charged with holding people in slavery as well as the production of cannabis and stealing electricity: the farm was maintained by three teenagers, judged to be 19 years old, and a 30-year-old man from Vietnam who were ?slave labour,? according to DI Franklin. He further remarked, ?No-one would do this by choice? because it was ?grim?: there was no natural light, fresh air or running water; water had to be brought in. DI Franklin called their work ?hard, manual labour ? it?s not just a walk around with a watering can.? It is not currently known if the Vietnamese were locked in, which is often the case with cannabis farms, where food is delivered through the letterbox and instructions are by text message. Use of trafficked labour is also common in cannabis farms. The Vietnamese were released and face no additional action. They spoke no English.
OK, so perhaps cannabis isn’t always entirely harmless
DI Franklin contrasted this find with the common perception that cannabis is harmless. It wasn’t for the Vietnamese guys. A report recently released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council stated that commercial cultivation of cannabis often employed trafficked people held in ?modern slavery.? Children who are rescued frequently subsequently go missing from local authority care to be further used by criminals.
Not even the first nuclear bunker cannabis farm
This is not the first time a nuclear bunker has been used for growing cannabis: the 285,000 square feet of Drakelow Tunnels in Worcestershire was found to have been thus employed in 2015.