NewsNorthern Ireland

Chinese restaurant owner allowed cannabis to be grown in restaurant

Wan Hon-Fai at Antrim Court (pic Pacemaker Press Intl)
Wan Hon-Fai at Antrim Court (pic Pacemaker Press Intl)

By Paul Higgins

A Chinese restaurant manager has admitted in court that he allowed cannabis to be grown in his restaurant.

The Antrim Crown Court trial of 55-year-old Wan Hon-Fai had started yesterday, but today defence QC Neil Connor asked for the charge to be put to him again.

It was then that Hon-Fai pleaded guilty to allowing cannabis to be grown at the the Water Margin Chinese restaurant on the Cullybackey Road in Ballymena over a four-year time span on dates between 1 January 2010 and when the factory was uncovered by cops on 20 February last year.

The court heard that uniformed officers on foot patrol smelled a "strong aroma" of cannabis and had simply followed their noses on the trail which led to the restaurant.

When it was searched, it was discovered that the middle floor of the business premises had been converted into a cannabis factory with between 500-600 plants at "various stages of maturity."

Previous courts had heard that the haul was worth upwards of £150,000.

Following Hon-Fai's 11th hour admission today (tues), trial Judge Des Marrinan ordered the jury to find him "guilty by confession" and adjourned passing sentence to allow probation to compile a presentence report.

Hon-Fai, with a different address on the Cullybackey Road, was granted continuing bail and will be sentenced on 28 April.