$5 million Burringbar drug bust
A 62-year-old Burringbar man is in jail after police swooped on his property on Wednesday, seizing 2634 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of $5 million. Gary Howard, of Howards Road, was unrepresented when he faced Tweed Heads Local Court yesterday charged with the cultivation of a large commercial quantity of cannabis that attracts a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Howard, who was refused bail, is due to appear before the Lismore Local Court on February 4 via video link. The crop, grown along a creek bed and camouflaged by native bush, was spotted from the air on Wednesday. Eighteen police, including the Sydney Drug Squad on its annual North Coast drug raids, moved on the isolated property at the back of Burringbar at about 1.30pm and finished the harvest at 7.30pm, arresting Howard who was on the property at the time. Yesterday police paraded the large cannabis haul packed in two trucks parked at Murwillumbah Police station before the crop was transferred to the Uki sawmill where it was destroyed by burning. The acting crime manager at Tweed Heads, Detective Sergeant Frank Natoli, said the two-metre plants were four to five months old, with small heads forming on some of the plants. Det. Natoli estimated the plants had a street value of $5 million dollars and their seizure would have an impact on the cannabis supply market. Whether there were more drug raids planned Det. Natoli would not say. “You never know when the police will come calling. The postman knocks twice, but we don’t,” he said. The raid caused little fuss in Burringbar, with many residents unaware of the police presence. Burringbar, known as a cannabis growing enclave by police, has been the target of numerous raids over the past 20 to 30 years, with some significant hauls seized. One Burringbar resident was surprised that Gary Howard had been busted, saying Howard had only recently returned to the neighbourhood.