Police smash drug ring

POLICE swooped on seven different properties around Tweed Heads yesterday morning uncovering underground bunkers and seizing hundreds of elaborately grown cannabis plants worth an estimated $2 million.

The seizure, following seven months of investigations by operation Strike Force Waragal, has been dubbed a "signi-%ficant" bust by police.

It saw raids executed on properties at Cudgera Creek,%Burringbar, Terranora, Banora Point and Palmvale. Seven people were arrested.

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

"This is another significant win for the NSW Police Force in the war against drugs," Insp Carey 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 at a press conference outside a Cudgera Creek Road farm - which police had raided, finding $1 million worth of cannabis plants - Insp Carey said Strike Force Waragal investigators 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," Insp Carey said.

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

He said significant amounts of equipment, an amount of cash and other items were also found at the Cudgera Creek Road address.

"At this stage two males are in custody at the Tweed Heads police station assisting strike force investigators with their inquiries," Insp Casey said at midday.

"We consider it to be a significant arrest," Insp Carey said.

Police later confirmed all seven men arrested were alleged to be involved in a criminal syndicate.

At another location, a number of rooms inside a house had allegedly been converted to hydroponic cannabis-growing rooms.

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.

It will be alleged electricity was being stolen to power the hydroponic set-ups.

Yesterday's operation was conducted by the Tweed/Byron Target Action Group with the assistance of officers from throughout the Northern Region and the Sydney dog unit.

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

"The community can be assured that the NSW Police Force will continue to detect and lock up those producing illegal drugs and shut down these kinds of operations."

It is believed the cannabis was destined for the streets of Tweed Heads and the Gold Coast.

Det Insp Carey urged anyone who suspects the production or supply of illegal drugs in their local area to%alert police.

"This can be done by contacting your local police station or phoning Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, and you can also remain anonymousif you wish."

Investigations are continuing.



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