Three men were remanded in custody on Saturday after appearing at Swindon Magistrates Court charged with conspiracy to produce a quantity of cannabis, abstracting electricity without authority and conspiring to hold another person in slavery or servitude. The charges follow the discovery of what Wiltshire Police described as the "country's biggest Cannabis factory" earlier this week.
Officers from Wiltshire Police's Dedicated Crime Team raided an underground nuclear bunker, RGHQ Chilmark which was once owned by the Ministry of Defence, on Wednesday (February 22). Six people were arrested during the raid, including Martin Fillery, 45, Plamen Nguyen, 27, and Ross Winter, 30, all from the Somerset area.
The bunker, which was designed to protect government officials and local dignitaries in the event of a nuclear attack, according to Wiltshire Police, and is described in a statement on the force's website as "almost completely impenetrable." Police therefore waited outside the bunker to gain access as several men went to leave the building.
Inside the bunker, police found three men aged 15, 19 and 37, who had no fixed abode, who they believed to be tending to thousands of cannabis plants, valued by police at over £1m. They were initially taken into custody on suspicion of cannabis production, though later released without charge.
Speaking after the arrests were made, Detective Inspector Paul Franklin, of the Dedicated Crime Team, said he was "delighted" to have taken such a large crop out of circulation. He said: "There are approximately 20 rooms in the building, split over two floors, each 200ft long and 70 ft wide. Almost every single room had been converted for the wholesale production of cannabis plants, and there was a large amount of evidence of previous crops. This was an enormous set up."
He said: "I am convinced it is one of the largest crops ever discovered in Wiltshire."
Globally, human trafficking continues to be prevalent. Though the number of people living as slaves is difficult to assess, the Global Slavery Index in 2014 said the crime affects almost 30 million people worldwide. Often victims of modern slavery are vulnerable people or those from overseas.
In response to the growing problem, the UK government passed the Modern Slavery Act in 2015. Among its powers, the act provides a statutory defence for victims of modern slavery who are forced to commit offences as a consequence of their slavery.