Police have seized enough cannabis to make $10 million of "tinnies" each year in raids on a drug syndicate growing plants in homes dotted across suburban Auckland.
One of the five people arrested in Operation Company owns a clifftop North Shore home with harbour views, and another couple live on a $1 million lifestyle block near Bethells Beach on Auckland's west coast.
The three-month covert inquiry by the Auckland organised crime squad uncovered what is alleged to be one of the largest commercial cannabis rings in recent years.
Detectives say they found more than 370 plants hidden in secret rooms fitted with fluorescent lights, reflective lighting, fans, extraction vents, heaters, digital thermometers, water filters and fertiliser.
As hydroponically grown cannabis yields three or four crops each year, police estimate the seized plants could produce enough dope to be worth $10 million annually if sold as "tinnies" at street level.
All five defendants appeared in Auckland District Court this week charged with participation in an organised criminal group, cultivation of cannabis, possession of cannabis for supply and cannabis supply.
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Jaak Roy Karu, 42, Paul David Jensen, 42, Mark Lloyd Pedersen, 40, Sharon Claire O'Neill, 34, and Andreas Johannes Turk, 49, were bailed until their next court appearance in October.
The group were allegedly supplying cannabis by the pound (454g), a wholesale amount which is sold for around $3500.
The class C drug is then divided into ounces (28g) for around $300, then sold at street level as 1g "tinnies" for $20.
All five were arrested after detectives searched a Titirangi home owned by O'Neill, but where Turk was living.
The house allegedly held a sophisticated cultivation system with four growing rooms, an area to dry cannabis flowers and another room to prepare the "buds" for sale.
Each growing room is said to have contained up to 80 plants as well as fans, lights, heaters, extraction vents, timed power boards and digital thermometers.
Potting mix and fertiliser were also found, as well as what police allege was 2kg of dried cannabis bud.
Pedersen, O'Neill, Jensen and Turk were at the property during the police raids, while Karu allegedly fled and was arrested later.
A second alleged cultivation system was found at a West Auckland property where O'Neill and Pedersen live together.
Police say a large garage complex on the rural section near Bethells Beach had one room with 40 plants, as well as fluorescent lights, reflective lighting, fans and heaters. Three other rooms were similarly set up to grow cannabis - but with no plants - while a fifth room held a water-filter system, fertiliser and tools.
Police also found nearly $7000 in cash, all in $20 notes. It is understood the unemployed couple had signed a rent-to-buy contract for the $1 million property.
The 34-year-old O'Neill also owns a third property in Kelston. When police searched the brick house they say they found a trapdoor hidden under carpet which led to a third cultivation system. Although no cannabis plants were found, police say two rooms were set up as crop nurseries with a separate compartment to dry the cannabis flowers.
Police also searched a fourth property owned by Karu, a self-employed air-conditioning installer. The weatherboard home in Avondale was empty, but detectives found a door-sized hole in a brick wall in the garage. This led to a large room lined with plasterboard with a number of lights and wires in the ceiling and walls.
Karu lives with his family in a sprawling 425sq m home on Northcote Pt which overlooks the Waitemata Harbour, with a 2008 capital value of $1.3 million. Property records show there is no mortgage on the home. Jensen lived in an apartment in Stanley Pt, Devonport, where police say they found a small amount of cannabis and a stun gun. He is also charged with possession of a restricted weapon.
Detective Inspector Scott Beard, in charge of the Auckland organised crime unit, said that although there was public concern over methamphetamine, cannabis was still an illegal drug.
"And there's a lot of money to be made in the cultivation and distribution of cannabis. Organised crime is not just patched gang members and Asian syndicates who import pseudoephedrine and methamphetamine."
The police asset recovery unit will now focus on any properties or assets owned by the five Operation Company defendants. These are likely to be the subject of proceedings under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act. The legislation puts the onus on defendants to prove they paid for their assets, such as homes, cars and cash or they are forfeited to the Crown. New figures released by police this week show restraining orders are held over assets valued at $40 million, with a further $8 million already forfeited.
* Two cannabis nurseries and 370 plants found at properties in Titirangi and Bethells Beach.
* Hidden rooms found in two other properties in Kelston and Avondale.
* One of the accused owns a mortgage-free million-dollar home in North Shore with clifftop views of the Waitemata Harbour.
Jaak Roy Karu, Paul David Jensen, Mark Lloyd Pedersen, Sharon Claire O'Neill and Andreas Johannes Turk jointly charged with participation in an organised crime group, cultivation of cannabis, cannabis possession for supply and cannabis supply.
* $3000 to $5000 - Pound (454g)By Jared Savage | Email Jared
* $250 to $500 - Ounce (28g)
* $20 - Tinnie (1g).