Port Kembla drug bust case 'decidedly iffy' against Van Nam Tran, lawyer claims

His client was found in a warehouse in Port Kembla, in the middle of the night, miles from home, surrounded by upwards of a million dollars worth of hydroponic cannabis.

But lawyer Robert Steward has claimed the police case against Vietnamese national Van Nam Tran is far from a strong one and even went as far as describing the chances of a conviction as “decidedly iffy”.

The submissions were made in Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday as Mr Steward sought bail for Tran, who along with four fellow Vietnamese nationals, has been charged with large commercial drug supply.

Eagle-eyed general duties police were patrolling Port Kembla just before 2am on September 30 when they noticed suspicious activity, including a vehicle with its engine still warm, at a seemingly locked, empty shed.

The officers stormed the premises, discovering a sophisticated hydroponic cannabis set-up spanning six rooms.

Van Nam Tran, Dinh Hung Tran, Van Phi Nguyen, Chau Son Le and Van Dung Pham were arrested trying to flee the premises.

Around 560 cannabis plants were seized along with 110 kilograms of cannabis leaf.

The group – two of whom have been exposed as illegal immigrants –  was remanded in custody.

In court on Wednesday, Mr Steward said three of the five men were discovered wearing gloves, possibly indicating they played an active part in the warehouse operation.

However, he said Tran did not have gloves on, and prosecutors would need to prove that he had prior knowledge of what was inside the warehouse in order to have him convicted.

“There’s no evidence he engaged in any cultivation,” Mr Steward said.

“There’s nothing to establish he’d ever been on those premises before.”

However, Magistrate Michael Stoddart refused the application, saying on the facts before him the case against Tran appeared to be a strong one.