Just one year for $500m drug bust
A MAN involved in Queensland's biggest cannabis bust at Inglewood in 2008 will serve just a year in jail for his part in the massive operation.
Michael Bennett Gardner Jnr, 31, was arrested along with his father, Michael Bennett Gardner Snr, in July 2008 after police found about half a billion dollars' worth of harvested cannabis and growing plants at a remote property in the Warroo district.
Gardner Jnr appeared in the Supreme Court in Brisbane yesterday where he pleaded guilty to six charges including producing a dangerous drug, possessing proceeds of a drug offence and possession of a weapon.
He had already served 169 days in pre-sentence custody and while he was yesterday sentenced to five years jail, the sentence will be suspended after he serves 12 months.
The court heard the 31-year-old was a labourer on the property and was involved in planting, harvesting and packaging the drugs.
He was paid $25,000 for his involvement between June 2004 and July 2008.
Police who raided the secluded former sheep property Kinvarra found 30,000 unharvested plants and 6.5 tonnes of cut cannabis in a sophisticated growing operation which included miles of irrigation piping and huge drying sheds.
Michael Bennett Gardner Snr, along with his daughter Rosemary Gardner and another man, Benjamin George Sutherland, have their matters still before the courts and are charged with a range of offences including production and trafficking of a dangerous drug, weapons offences and assault.
It is understood they will appear in court again early in the new year, after a complex round of Magistrates Court appearances, committal hearings and evidence processing, which has gone on for nearly three and a half years.
Other items allegedly found at the property included a large stockpile of weapons, body shackles, night vision goggles, long-range rifle scopes, handguns and a quantity of ammunition.
A huge party of detectives and uniformed police combed the 1735 hectare Kinvarra over several days in the first week of July 2008, gradually discovered more cropping areas as they went.
The arrests were made after police received information from the public and Michael Bennett Gardner Snr and Jnr made their first court appearance in the Warwick Magistrates Court on July 6 2008.
Rosemary Gardner and Benjamin George Sutherland were charged later.
It was believed there were other persons involved in the operation in the role of "crop-sitters" but no further charges were laid.
The former owner of Kinvarra, who declined to be identified, told the Daily News at the time neighbours had "ideas something funny was going on" but were not sure exactly what.
He said he sold the traprock property in 2004 after owning it for 17 years.
"When I bought it, it was very inaccessible, all four-wheel drive country, but I got a dozer contractor to put roads in," he said in 2008.
He said the main area where the drugs were found was called Shepherd's Flat, which had extensive underground springs.
Detective Chief Superintendent Ross Barnett said at the time of the massive find that the seizure was "far and away the largest seizure of cannabis ever in this state and I would rank it among the most significant nationally".