2 Oct 2012

Fake garden business set up in police sting

8:30 pm on 2 October 2012

A court has heard how police set up a fictitious hydroponics business to uncover alleged criminal activity by the managers of the Switched on Gardener retail chain.

The chain, owner Michael Quinlan, four of its managers and a hydroponics wholesaler are on trial in the Auckland District Court on dozens of charges related to selling equipment knowing it would be used to grow cannabis.

They were arrested two years ago during a police operation targeting hydroponics stores throughout the country.

The officer who coordinated the operation, Detective Senior Sergeant Stephen Honnis, told the court on Tuesday that undercover agents created a fake business proposal for a hydroponics store in Greymouth.

He said the purpose was to meet with the managers of Switched on Gardener in order to uncover the cannabis culture of the company.

Mr Honnis says agents went into stores pretending to be cannabis growers and used covert recording devices to tape conversations they had with staff.

The Crown says the conversations show the managers were involved in selling material that would be used illegally.