Large-scale cannabis farming is linked to money laundering, distributing class A drugs, human trafficking and illegal immigration
LONDON, Dec 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Organised criminal gangs are exploiting vulnerable people, including children, forcing them to cultivate cannabis in Britain where street prices are among the highest in Europe, the National Police Chiefs' Council said.
Police seize an average of a quarter of a million cannabis plants every year with an estimated street value of more than 62 million pounds ($93 million), the NPCC, which represents senior police officers, said.
Large-scale cannabis farming is linked to money laundering, distributing class A drugs, human trafficking and illegal immigration, and most offenders are white British men aged between 25 and 34, the NPCC said in a report late on Tuesday.
It also found evidence that Vietnamese people were being forced to grow cannabis - in line with reports from lawyers and campaigners that young men and boys were being trafficked from Vietnam to grow cannabis in Britain.
In July, Prime Minister David Cameron used his first trip to the Southeast Asian country to seek stronger cooperation from the government there to tackle the problem.
The NPCC said Southeast Asian migrants often entered Britain with no intention of cultivating cannabis.
"However, once in the UK, it becomes an easy way for them to pay back large debts to lenders who threaten their families and lifestyles back home," the report said.
"Often with interest rates of 2-3 percent per month, they have little option but to turn to crime, with commercial cultivation often earning them enough in one year to repay their debts and send money home to their family."
As many as 13,000 people in Britain are effectively slaves, according to the government. Some of the most common countries of origin are Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam and Romania. ($1 = 0.6666 pounds)
(Writing by Katie Nguyen, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
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