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Swiss police find hemp field using Google

Published on 30/01/2009

ZURICH - Swiss police said Thursday they found a large marijuana plantation while using Google Earth, the search engine company's satellite mapping software.

Police said the find was part of a bigger investigation that led to the arrest of 16 people and seizure of 1.2 tonnes (1.1 metric tonnes) of marijuana as well as cash and valuables worth CHF 900,000.

Officers discovered the hemp field in the northeastern canton of Thurgau in 2008 while investigating an alleged drug ring, said the head of Zurich police’s specialist narcotics unit Norbert Klossner.

The plantation, measuring almost 7,500 square metres, was hidden inside a field of corn. But officers using Google Earth to locate the address of two farmers suspected of involvement in the drug operation quickly spotted the illegal crop.

"It was an interesting chance discovery", said Klossner.

Prosecutor Gabi Alkalay told reporters in Zurich that she plans to complete her criminal investigation in February, after which she will formally charge the 16 suspects and ask for prison sentences for all of them.

The gang allegedly sold up to 7 tonnes of hashish and marijuana between 2004 and 2008, with an annual turnover of CHF 3-10 million a year, officials said.

[AP / Expatica]