Man kept as 'slave' to work in cannabis growing operation
A DESTITUTE Vietnamese asylum seeker who was given bed and board in a house where he was kept as a slave" raising cannabis plants valued at €126,000 has been given a two-year prison sentence.
Cong Pham (35) told gardai he had been promised some payment if there was a successful crop.
Pham, who has been in custody since the offence, pleaded guilty to possession of the plants for sale or supply at his then address at Ballybough Road, Dublin 3 on April 2, 2010.
Judge Martin Nolan said Pham was "basically a functionary or slave" who was kept in the house and fed by fellow nationals on the promise he would get some money when the crop was sold.
He said this was an "exceptional case" and imposed a two-year sentence which he backdated to when Pham went into custody in April 2010.
Garda Damien Guckian told Mr Garret Baker, prosecuting, that he and two colleagues went to the house on an unrelated matter and Pham answered the door.
Gda Guckian said Pham seemed nervous, the colour drained from his face and a phone he was holding was trembling in his hand. He thought he could smell cannabis from inside the house and when he asked if that was what it was, Pham nodded in agreement.
The gardai went inside the house and Pham pointed upstairs. Gardai discovered 316 potted cannabis plants in a number of rooms with makeshift high-wattage lighting and ventilation systems.
Gda Guckian said the plants had a street value of €126,000. Pham was arrested along with three other men on their return to the house.
Pham told gardai he had been at the house for a month and a half and had been given instructions on how to grow the plants. He said the plants took two to three months to grow and he had been promised payment if there was a good crop but had received nothing up to that time.
He said he was in fear of the people running the operation and denied smoking cannabis himself.
Gda Guckian said the financiers of this operation had been bringing food to Pham.
He said Pham had three previous convictions which also arose from this incident.
Pham told gardai he had been smuggled into Ireland in a container because he had problems with his government and he had applied for asylum.
Mr Paul McDermott SC, defending, said Pham was destitute and vulnerable at the time of this offence. He said Pham had got bed and board out of the offence and was hoping to get some payment.
"He was a functionary with no definitive prospect of what he would get out of it," Mr McDermott told Judge Nolan.