Police seize $2m in drugs

POLICE have swooped on seven Northern Rivers properties, uncovering underground bunkers and seizing hundreds of elaborately-grown cannabis plants worth an estimated $2 million.

The seizure follows seven months of investigations by an operation dubbed Strike Force Waragal.

It saw raids executed on properties at Cudgera Creek, Burringbar, Terranora, Banora Point and Palmvale, as well as seven arrests.

Inspector Greg Carey, crime manager of the Tweed/Byron Local Area Command, said the operation targeted the manufacture and cultivation of illicit drugs.

"This is another significant win for the NSW police force in the war against drugs," he said.

"Illegal drugs are a scourge on our community, and the tenacity of these officers has seen millions of dollars worth of drugs prevented from hitting the streets, as well as the dismantling of a sophisticated criminal operation."

Speaking outside a Cudgera Creek Road farm where police found cannabis plants worth $1 million, Insp Carey said investigators from Strike Force Waragal executed search warrants about 8.45am yesterday.

"At this location two search warrants were executed and 250 cannabis plants at varying stages of maturity were found," he said.

Insp Carey said police would allege the plants were located in a sophisticated hydroponic set-up, much of which was located in an underground bunker system.

A 'significant' amount of equipment, cash and other items were also found at the Cudgera Creek Road address.

"We consider it to be a significant arrest, but certainly not the biggest we have had," Insp Carey said.

All seven men arrested are alleged to be involved in a criminal syndicate.

At another location a number of rooms in a house had been converted to hydroponic cannabis growing rooms.

In total, police seized more than 500 plants worth about $2 million, tens of thousands of dollars in cash, and hydroponic equipment valued at about $100,000.

Police allege electricity was being stolen to power the hydroponic set-ups.

Yesterday's operation was carried out by the Tweed/Byron Target Action Group, with help from police from across the Northern Region and Sydney's dog unit.

Insp Carey praised officers for their perseverance and professionalism in investigating the syndicate, resulting in yesterday's raids.

He said the community also had an important role to play in assisting police in detecting those dabbling in the illegal drug trade.

"I urge anyone who suspects the production or supply of illegal drugs in their area to alert police," he said. "This can be done by contacting your local police station or phoning Crime Stoppers on
1800 333 000."

Police investigations are continuing.


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