Cannabis farmer ordered to pay back ill-gotten gains
- Credit: DC Police
A farmer who buried a massive cannabis factory beneath his barn has been ordered to sell some of his land to repay his ill-gotten gains.
Daniel Palmer set up the underground operation on his family’s farm near Okehampton with the help of a professional grower who installed high tech systems.
He was jailed after police unearthed the five interlinked shipping containers hidden beneath the concrete floor at Easter Hall Park, Petrockstowe in February 2017.
The system was capable of producing hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of drugs every year and police recovered more than a kilogram of freshly harvested skunk cannabis in empty water butts.
Palmer ran a business making log cabins but branched out into the far more lucrative drugs enterprise. An investigation under the Proceeds of Crime was started after he was jailed for six years and three months in September 2019.
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It concluded that he had made £149,495 from the cannabis enterprise and that his available assets were £913,764.
Judge Timothy Rose ordered him to pay the £149,495 but gave him three months to do so after being told he will have to sell land to do so.
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Palmer appeared at Exeter Crown Court by video link from Dartmoor Prison, where he is still serving his sentence.
He told the Judge he owns land at Easter Hall jointly with his brother but hopes to be able to sell it in time to fulfil the order under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Palmer, aged 41, of Hooper Close, Hatherleigh, denied producing cannabis but was found guilty by a jury at Exeter Crown Court in August 2019.
During a trial, the jury heard how Palmer chose an isolated spot, hidden in woodland, in which to excavate a massive hole in which the five containers were buried.
They were all equipped with high tech hydroponic cultivation rooms with water supplies and lights to speed up growth and fans to remove the foul air. The whole set up was powered by its own generator.
Palmer concealed the drugs factory by building a large barn over the top of the containers, complete with concrete floor.
It meant the only way in was through a hatch in the floor which was covered up by sacks of fertiliser. The only clue to what lay beneath was a duct taking the cable from the generator to the containers.
Easter Hall Park is a 200-acre estate which offers a range of rural activities, including holiday cottages, riding stables, carriage driving, and woodland walks.
Palmer denied knowing anything about the underground containers and said a man called Richard Jones had rented the land from his father. He discovered after his arrest that Mr Jones had used a false identity.
Palmer was found guilty because his DNA was found inside the underground growing area, including a light fitting. He claimed he must have touched the items before they were taken into the containers.
Police are still trying to trace the main grower who rented the land using a fake passport and driving licence. His true name is thought to be Stephen Parker.