A serious organised crime gang who ran the biggest cannabis production ever to be uncovered in the UK have been convicted after a long trial process at the Old Bailey.
Men from Thamesmead and Abbey Wood have been convicted as part of a joint operation to bring down the group, which was making £25m a year.
The gang had cannabis farms in locations across Kent and Norfolk built into two wooden constructions housing industrial units.
Police said 16,428 cannabis plants were seized from the factories.
Detective Inspector James Derham, from the Kent and Essex serious crime directorate, said: “This was a highly organised and prolific conspiracy to produce and sell cannabis on an industrial scale.
“We estimate the annual street value of these plants was in excess of £26 million – a significant amount of money that could have been used to fund further criminal activity.”
One factory was found by police in Gravesend after they were called to a disturbance in 2015, two years after it was set up.
Police found a discarded cannabis pot and after searching the premises in Canal Basin found three industrial units, all stealing electricity, housing thousands of cannabis plants.
One production set up in a warehouse in Canal Basin, Gravesend, was found to have 9,888 plants, and was capable of producing a crop four times a year.
The street value of the drugs found in the warehouse in 2015 was in excess of £16m.
DI Derham said: “This case was a significant undertaking by the investigation team due to the level of sophistication and analytical work.
“This case sends out a clear message that Kent Police has the resources and expertise to bring offenders involved in high level, organised criminality to justice.”
Prior to the first of two trials at the Old Bailey, James Allen, aged 39, of Woolwich Road in Abbey Wood, pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiring to produce cannabis and three counts of abstracting electricity.
Prior to the second trial, David Graham, aged 50, and of Plaistow Lane in Bromley, pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiring to produce cannabis and five counts of abstracting electricity.
At the second trial, between April 3 and May 5, Alan Marquiss, aged 69, of Disraeli Road in Thamesmead pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to produce cannabis and one count of abstracting electricity.
Another 12 men from across London, Kent, Norfolk and Essex were also convicted for conspiring to produce cannabis and abstracting electricity.