Seventy years jail for drug syndicate

A Vietnamese drug gang who grew and stored cannabis in units across the Black Country worth millions of pounds have been jailed for a total of 70 years.

Zahir Salim (top left), Hoa Nguyen (top right), Bao Nguyen (bottom left) and Tony Sam
Zahir Salim (top left), Hoa Nguyen (top right), Bao Nguyen (bottom left) and Tony Sam

The group used fake IDs and falsified bank statements to rent homes and industrial units in Smethwick, Tipton, Sandwell, Edgbaston, Halesowen and Nottingham. The units were kitted out with hydroponics set-ups to heat, ventilate and water the plants while others were used as storage facilities to hold harvested cannabis before being sold to dealers.

The leaders of the 29-strong syndicate had laundered at least £2 million through casinos and were using the drug money to fund a luxury lifestyle. West Midlands Police discovered the first of the cartel’s factories after responding to calls of suspicious activity at an address in Wentworth Way, Harborne, on January 20 last year.

A large drugs and cash haul was recovered from the property, and inquiries by West Midlands Police’s Drug Investigation Team led detectives on a trail which exposed a network of cannabis factories and safe houses. In total, 27 men and two women have been handed jail terms ranging from 16 months to six-and-a-half years.

The last members were jailed last week at Coventry Crown Court. Their combined sentences totalled 72 years. Thousands of cannabis plants were seized by police over a six-month period as properties used by the predominantly Vietnamese-based cartel, many of whom were in the country illegally, were raided by police.

Tony Sam, aged 27, from North Drive, Handsworth, was the syndicate ring-leader. He posed as an import-export boss and used fake documents to secure industrial units he deemed suitable for drug farm modifications. He was found guilty of conspiracy to supply drugs and jailed for six-and-a-half years at Birmingham Crown Court earlier this year.

Other key cartel members included husband and wife Zahir Salim, 42, who was the shopkeeper of a nail bar in Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton, and 43-year-old Hoa Nguyen from Cloister Drive, Halesowen. Police arrested this pair at Heathrow on March 10 last year and, after admitting money laundering linked to drug supply, they were both handed five-year three-month prison terms.

The youngest gang member was Bao Nguyen, 21, of Albion Road, Hands-worth, who was arrested during a raid in Edgbaston on February 5, 2011 after 10 one-kilo bags of cannabis were found in a garage. Detectives found he was central to the drug distribution process, and he was found guilty of conspiracy to supply drugs and jailed for five-and-a-half years.