28 Apr 2010

Raids on suspected drug equipment suppliers

6:07 am on 28 April 2010

A large gardening retail chain has been caught up in a major police operation targeting sellers of cannabis cultivating equipment.

More than 250 people have been arrested and more than 700 charges have been laid as part of a series of nationwide raids.

The search warrants were executed on Tuesday morning and were the result of two years of undercover work by police, codenamed Operation Lime.

Deputy Commissioner Rob Pope says officers found they were able to purchase equipment, obtain advice on how to grow cannabis and purchase other drugs over the counter at many businesses.

He says a major national supplier of indoor growing supplies was among those targeted and had 16 stores and its distribution centre raided.

All branches and the distribution centre of the chain were closed on Tuesday but have not been shut down indefinitely.

Mr Pope says directors and managers from the company are among those facing charges.

Search warrants were also executed at numerous residential addresses.

Mr Pope says firearms and drugs, including methamphetamine, were seized during the raids.

Detective Senior Sergeant Lindsay Pilbrow says two major indoor growing operations were found, including a three-room set up at a house in the Tauranga suburb of Brookfield.

Those caught in the bust will be subject to the new Criminal Proceeds Act and could be stripped of their money and assets if convicted.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell says while cultivating equipment may now be harder to come by, the industry is unfortunately very resilient, and the arrests will not stop demand.