Man faces court over Shepparton cannabis crop house

By Liz Mellino

A Melbourne man has faced court after police discovered an "elaborate" cannabis crop in a house in Shepparton last week.

Andy Du, 46, faced Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on Monday over the hydroponic set-up, which police allege housed 183 cannabis plants weighing a total of 248 kg.

Mr Du sat in the dock alongside an interpreter for a bail application, with his arms crossed and head bowed for most of the proceedings.

The court heard a search warrant was executed on May 6 at a Chevrolet Ave home where police allegedly uncovered a large hydroponic set-up in various rooms of the home.

Police prosecutor Senior Constable Liam Murdock said the rooms inside the house had been altered and fitted out with fans, lighting, watering and electrical apparatus to aid in the "large-scale production of cannabis".

Police allege the house had also been illegally fitted with an electrical bypass, allowing considerable amounts of electricity to be stolen.

The court heard the amount of cannabis plants allegedly located inside was 2 kg less than a large commercial quantity.

The court heard that the day after the warrant was executed a passer-by called police after noticing a dark-coloured Toyota Kluger in the driveway of the home.

Sen Const Murdock said the vehicle had left by the time police arrived, however, they managed to intercept it along Wyndham St about 1.20 pm, with Mr Du and a co-accused seated inside.

The court heard the vehicle was searched, with police allegedly finding two bags of soil, two electrical transformers and a receipt for $9000 worth of growing agents.

Mr Du was searched by police who located $2615 cash in Australian dollars, US$219 and three notes of an unknown currency.

He was arrested and taken to the Shepparton Police Station where he provided a "no comment” interview.

Mr Du is facing six charges including cultivating a commercial quantity of cannabis, trafficking a commercial quantity of cannabis, theft of power belonging to Ausnet Services and dealing with cash suspected of being the proceeds of crime.

Sen Constable Murdock said police believed the accused was an unacceptable risk if released, telling the court he had prior convictions for possessing drugs of dependence.

Mr Du's lawyer Chen Yang argued the police currently had no evidence linking his client to the house, with no fingerprints or surveillance which captured him at the property.

“At the height of the evidence he was in a car with fertiliser and hydroponic material in the back, there was no cannabis found in the car or nothing that links the hydroponic set-up for the use of cannabis,” Mr Yang said.

He said analysis of the DNA material police acquired at the home could take months, arguing that the prosecution case at this point in time was not a strong one.

Mr Yang said his client met the criteria of exceptional circumstances based on the likely delay in sentencing he would experience due to the current climate.

He said a stable address in Melbourne could be provided for Mr Du to reside at if bailed, along with a range of conditions which could be put in place to ameliorate any risk the accused presented.

Magistrate Peter Mithen granted the accused bail, imposing a range of conditions including a curfew, surrender of his passport and a surety of $80 000.