THE illicit trade in cannabis was ‘significantly’ disrupted after town centre police raided a Shrivenham Road home and discovered 300 cannabis plants with a potential street value of £140,000 yesterday.

A 20-year-old man, thought to be a Vietnamese national, was found asleep in the front room when officers stormed the address at 7.30am and has been arrested on suspicion of cultivating cannabis and stealing electricity.

Officers smashed the sophisticated set-up, which was confined to the loft and upstairs bedrooms and was found to be using the electricity supply illegally.

Broadgreen beat manager PC Luke Atkinson said the bust, the result of a tip-off from the community, had disrupted the trade in the class B drug and was the first in the area for a while.

He said: “The plants were about half-way through their cycle but had they been fully grown they might have been worth up to £140,000.

“This should have a significant effect on the circulation of cannabis in the area. We know it is a stepping stone drug and that its use is associated with criminality so to keep this amount off the street is good news.

“We forced entry to the house and found one man asleep inside – we suspect he was the gardener put in charge of harvesting these plants. It was quite a sophisticated set-up and it is certainly not a casual operation. More than likely it is linked to organised crime.

“The downstairs resembled a normal home, perhaps to avoid questions from the landlord, as it was a private rent.

“The warning we want to put out to landlords is to do the background checks, call the references and do checks on the property.

“This may have been established for eight to 12 weeks or so but we have known properties not to be checked for six, nine or 12 months, so it is important.”

The suspect, who is also being investigated for possible immigration offences, was taken to Gablecross police station and interviewed with an interpreter.

PC Atkinson added that officers continue to rely on the community for information about illegal activity in their areas and he encouraged people to speak up.

“We will act on the information we receive,” he said.

Anyone with any information about illegal drugs should contact Wiltshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.