Accused in huge drug plantation faces court

THE discovery of more than 22,000 marijuana plants at Inglewood with a wholesale value of $69 million alone has landed a man in front of Brisbane Supreme Court this week.

Michael Bennett Gardner Snr was arrested in 2008 after what was described one of the biggest drug busts in Queensland history.

Gardner Snr pleaded not guilty yesterday to trafficking a dangerous drug, with prosecutor Michael Lehane telling the court Gardner Snr and his wife bought a remote grazing property in 2004 and planted acres of marijuana, eventually worth $500m, during a four-year period.

Mr Lehane said Gardner Snr made his wife and her three children - who were allegedly pulled out of school - tend the crops and gave them "shut-up money".

The court also heard he killed and tortured his young stepchildren's pets to keep them quiet, and used "intimidation and violence" to keep the operation going.

"He was the guiding mind of this illegal enterprise," Mr Lehane said.

The court heard an elaborate watering system had been set up across the property, which included dams, pumps and extensive piping and he used lookout towers to view the fields.

Mr Lehane said police also found guns, leg shackles, handcuffs, extendable batons, military grade night-vision goggles and 10,000 rounds of ammunition at the secluded Traprock property.

The trial is expected to continue for two weeks.



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