DETECTIVES were faced with a tangled web to unpick after they made their first bust in the North West-wide cannabis ring.

Their swoop on an address in Roe Greave Road, Oswaldwistle, would trigger a complicated investigation, which sparked claims of people smuggling.

Codenamed Operation Renard, the inquiry would eventually take investigators across Lancashire, Merseyside and even as far south as Milton Keynes and Birmingham.

Several of the suspects, all originally Vietnamese nationals, detained by Lancashire Police, claimed that they had been trafficked into the UK.

But these claims were not believed by a Preston Crown Court jury, with police securing a number of convictions for conspiracy to grow and distribute the class B-rated drug.

The trial proceedings were also significantly altered, with a number of defendants changing their pleas to guilty after a jury had been sworn in.

WATCH: Video of BABY playing with thousands of pounds in drug money

Lancashire Telegraph:

Sgt Stuart Peall, from the East Exploitation Team, who led the investigation, said: “I welcome these sentences which reflect the serious nature of the offending.

“This was a sophisticated organised criminal group, making huge amounts of money from their operation which stretched across the North West of England.

“Many defendants claimed to be trafficked and some claimed to be children.

“All of these defences were proved to be lies and simply just a tactic used to avoid detection.

“Lancashire Constabulary will continue to proactively target the production of cannabis which can have lasting physical and mental health effects on users as well as having a negative effect on our communities and fuelling other crime.

“We need the public to continue to work with us to help us tackle drug crime by informing us of any suspicious activity.”