Police have questioned a wealthy aristocrat about a large cannabis farm found at his castle.

Sir Benjamin Slade was questioned after police uncovered a £1.4million cannabis farm which was growing all over Woodlands Castle at Ruishton in Somerset.

This week, a 39-year old Vietnamese citizen is being tried for growing cannabis.

Trung Pham’s defence lawyer questioned Trung Pham, the officer who was investigating the matter.

Taunton Crown Court heard from PC Lisa Gentle, that Pham had been arrested alongside two Vietnamese nationals. The first was 16 years of age and was handled as a juvenile. While the other was an older man who was not previously convicted and no further action was taken, the second was a man in his 20s.

Rupert Russell, a defence barrister, then inquired PC Gentle whether the castle belonged to Sir Benjamin Slade (7th Baronet). She confirmed.

Sir Benjamin Slade has been quizzed by police over a huge cannabis farm that was discovered at a castle he owns in Somerset, a jury heard during the trial of the man found at the scene

Police question Sir Benjamin Slade over large-scale cannabis farming discovered in a Somerset castle. This was the jury that heard the case against the man at the site.

She replied that he had.

The officer then asked her if he was charged. She replied, “I don’t know whether I’m allowed to talk about that.”

Russell asked her if he had been charged and she responded, “Not yet.”

An officer further confirmed to the jury the existence of a Sir Benjamin bank card ‘inside’ the premises.

Susan Cavender, prosecutor for Pham told the jury Pham was not working at the stately home as it was an ex-luxury wedding venue.

She claimed that inside the castle were 3,500 cannabis plant piled in 23 rooms, spread over three floors.

She said the top end yield of the plants was £1.4 million.

Pham, Miss Cavender said to the jury that he claims he is being exploited in modern slavery.

The Castle: Police found 3,500 cannabis plants which were stacked inside the castle's 23 rooms across three floors and experts estimate the haul had an upper value of £1.4million

The Castle: Police found 3,500 cannabis plants which were stacked inside the castle’s 23 rooms across three floors and experts estimate the haul had an upper value of £1.4million

However, she stated that he is a willing worker in the prosecution case and informed the jury that he has been convicted of the same offense in Norfolk since July 2013.

He admitted to producing marijuana and was sentenced for one year.

Woodlands Castle was raided by police in June. It was enclosed with a corrugated iron fence and a gate.

Three Vietnamese-American men were taken prisoner by officers who broke into their home and took them away. A drugs expert said the sophisticated set up of the cannabis operation would have cost around £100,000.

Miss Cavender stated that the house was filled with compost, sacks and specialist lighting to make sure the farm ran smoothly.

“The equipment and plants were located in every room of the house except for the first floor, where men used to live.”

The police also located some banknotes, sim card and phones inside the castle.

Although Pham didn’t answer any questions during a police interview, he gave a prepared statement.

Trung Pham has denied producing cannabis and is on trial at Taunton Crown Court (pictured)

Trung Phham denies producing cannabis, and is currently being tried at Taunton Crown Court. (pictured).

Pham claimed that he was brought from China in a lorry in 2019 and then forced into work by the mafia.

The business he owned in Vietnam was struggling and he borrowed money. However, he ended up bankrupt.

He claimed he was forced to ride in a lorry, arrived in London, and then worked at a Chinese restaurant.

Two men, one Western and the other Vietnamese from Vietnam told him to lock him up in London. They gave him milk and food.

Pham claimed that they drugged him later and he eventually ended up in the castle, where he was forced to clean and cook. He would also be beat if he didn’t.

He said he didn’t have anything to do with cannabis farms.

While he was willing to use a cell phone for calling his wife (who was also under threat by the mafia), he failed to alert police, as he cannot speak English.

Peter Collins, a police drug expert, told jurors that the electricity had been not cut off at the castle and that the usage was recorded on the meter.

The castle’s farm was the largest he has dealt with during his time in service.

Collins stated that it was evidently a large, well-established growth.

He believed it would have cost nearer £100,000 to set up. According to him, there’s a hierarchy within the drug business structure.

He explained that only the very top could get physical involvement in the sales of cannabis. The bottom gardeners are those who get a salary.

Collins claimed that the gardeners run the risk of being discovered and said: “Sometimes, they are working in some sort of danger.” 

Pham testified yesterday, and his trial will continue.