Page last updated at 00:12 GMT, Tuesday, 3 November 2009
'Hash in the attic'


Police video of a cannabis farm in Glasgow

Up to £100m of cannabis is grown in Scotland a year, more than the Scottish vegetable crop, according to the man leading the fight against the industry.

Police north of the border uncovered 111 drugs factories in the past year.

However, Det Supt Alan Buchanan from Strathclyde Police estimated about 10 times that amount was being cultivated.

He told BBC Scotland the industry was mostly led by south-east Asian gangs, with profits funding other crimes such as people trafficking and prostitution.

Det Supt Alan Buchanan
Alan Buchanan called for landlords to be made more accountable

Det Supt Buchanan told BBC Scotland that cannabis farming has brought Chinese organised crime into suburban areas on an unprecedented scale.

"Almost without exception the community that are involved in the UK are south-east Asian, Vietnamese and Chinese individuals," he said.

"The majority are of Chinese origin - about 76% - and about 20% are Vietnamese.

"Almost all of these individuals are illegal immigrants, they've paid to come here illegally and most are working off a debt by being gardeners or looking after a cultivation on behalf of people involved in organised crime."

The officer said cannabis cultivations were now being set up in residential areas across the country.

"It's very much on people's doorsteps, it's next door to them, it's in tenement flats, upstairs/downstairs," he said.

Cannabis plant
Strathclyde - 79
Lothian and Borders - 11
Tayside - 5
Northern - 4
Fife - 4
Grampian - 4
Central - 3
Dumfries and Galloway - 1

"Almost without exception these are in domestic properties and 94% of them are in the buy-to-let market.

"They are making millions of pounds out of this and this is going towards funding other criminality, including people trafficking, prostitution and fraud. It's an evolving circle of criminality."

Det Supt Buchanan said police seizures of the plants are only the tip of the iceberg.

"Every force in Scotland, and in the UK, has a cannabis cultivation problem.

"Of the ones that we're finding, we'd estimate that there's probably another ten times that out there."

The Strathclyde force - Scotland's largest - set up Operation League to target cannabis cultivations.

It uncovered 111 factories in the past year, compared to 131 over the previous two years of police operations.

Police said insurance companies were paying out millions of pounds each year because of the damage the factories caused to rented properties.

Utility companies are also losing about £67m in revenue each year because the 'gardeners' are bypassing electricity supplies.

Burnt living room
A Glasgow flat which was damaged by a fire in a neighbour's cannabis farm

Det Supt Buchanan said there had been seven serious fires in his force area caused by the electricity being bypassed.

"Fortunately we've not had any injuries so far but it's only a matter of time before one of these fires kills either the gardeners or their neighbours."

He called for landlords to be made more accountable about finding out who is staying in their property and why.

"In total, 60% of property owners affected in Scotland have taken no form of identification, have taken cash in hand and couldn't tell the police who's in their house and what it's being used for," he said.

"We would like to see some sort of requirement on home owners - whether it's through licensing or some other means - which says if you're going to profit from the buy-to-let market you or your agent have to manage the property effectively.

"Is it right that people can profit from their house's rent when it's the proceeds of crime? We don't think so."

Hash in the Attic will be broadcast on Tuesday, 3 November on BBC One Scotland at 2235 GMT.

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