RIGA - Latvia's National Police on Feb. 20 announced that they have turned up a large cache of weapons and explosives in a garage in Salaspils, near Riga, which they say may be related to two major sites, uncovered days earlier, that were being used in the production marijuana.
Police found four infantry land mines, six hand grenades, a sawed-off shotgun, several handguns, ammunition and around two kilograms of TNT at the Salaspils location, along with two remote control explosive devices that are used to blow up automobiles.
At press time, there were no reports of any suspects being detained in the weapons case. The handguns have been sent to police laboratories to determine whether they have been used in prior crimes.
Though he declined to firmly state a link, National Police spokesman Aigars Berzins said the weapons are likely related to the gang that was operating two marijuana production sites that were uncovered earlier in February.
The larger of the two production sites was found in a privately owned forest in Kuldiga County in western Latvia. There police found an underground steel shed hidden among a series of unfinished buildings. The shed had been converted into a workshop and warehouse used for processing the marijuana plants.
Police confiscated 618 marijuana seedlings weighing 28 kilograms and three kilograms of prepared marijuana from the location. The shed serviced a nearby marijuana field measuring 120 square meters.
Another production site was found in an apartment in Riga. The growing operation in the apartment was much smaller, but contained more advanced equipment. Along with 31 marijuana seedlings weighing a total of six kilograms, police found a computer-assisted watering system and special fertilization chemicals to increase the amount of marijuana that could be harvested from the plants. There were also instructional books on growing marijuana.
The owner of Riga-based hothouse has been arrested. Another person suspected of production of marijuana is still at large and the police are continuing their search for the suspect.
Police have had the group of people involved in the crimes under surveillance since the end of last year.
This is the first time that police have found evidence of people growing marijuana on such a large scale.
"In my 16 years working for the police department, I have never heard of this kind of growing," said Ieva Zvidre, the head of the press and public relations unit of the state police.
Police representatives also indicated that they were surprised by the extent of the production facilities. Advanced technology and elaborate equipment were found at the growing sites, which displays a certain level of expertise by the growers. The sophistication of the sites also indicates that the production and use of marijuana may be increasingly becoming a problem for Latvia.
Police declined to provide further details on the case or discuss the possible charges to be pressed as the investigation is still underway, however they stated that the criminals involved in this case were not professional biologists or chemists, and that they were only following instructions in the literature they had read.
The criminal division of the Riga City Police said that growing and manufacturing narcotics is not a developing tendency in Latvia. A majority of the occasional cases that do come up are individuals growing marijuana in private gardens in summer.