DETECTIVES say she is the director of a crime syndicate, the head of a Vietnamese “cannabis army”, who directed her “underlings” – mostly men living in Australia illegally – to cultivate large quantities of the drug at grow houses across Newcastle.
But Nga White, 44, claims she is just a nail and beauty salon owner and businesswoman who has been wrongfully accused.
On Thursday, Ms White appeared in Newcastle District Court where she was arraigned and answered “not guilty” to charges of directing the activities of a criminal group, cultivating a large commercial quantity of cannabis, supplying a commercial quantity of cannabis and supplying a prohibited drug.
News: Crime and court
She will face an estimated four-week trial in the same court in September, 2019.
The trial will include a large number of telephone intercepts and a significant amount of surveillance that detectives conducted on a number of properties either owned or rented by Ms White, the court heard.
“I take it there is no issue the plants were located in the residence,” Judge Roy Ellis asked, trying to determine what the issue would be at trial.
“It's a question of whether the crown can prove your client's connection to it.”
Both parties agreed.
The investigation into Ms White began with a receipt found among the remnants of three cannabis dump sites found in bushland off Link Road, Wallsend on March 4, 2017. Police began investigating Ms White and identified that she owned or leased at least eight properties at Kahibah, Jesmond, New Lambton, Mayfield East, Maryland, Wallsend and Birminigham Gardens.
Between April and August, 2017, police conducted surveillance on the properties and Ms White’s alleged “underlings” in the syndicate – seven Vietnamese men, including six who were found to be in Australia illegally.
In October, police swooped on three of the men as they drove along Glebe Road, allegedly discovering more than 18 kilograms of cannabis in the car. From there they raided a cannabis grow house in Steel Street, Newcastle and later arrested Ms White.
On Thursday, Ms White was granted yet another variation to what was once an extraordinarily stringent bail.
After her arrest in November, Ms White was granted release on the condition she provide a $100,000 surety and wear a GPS monitoring bracelet, which cost $27,000 and had to be fitted at her expense.
The cash surety was reduced to $50,000 in November last year and then in August, after several attempts, Ms White was successful in having the GPS monitoring bracelet removed and the condition replaced with twice daily reporting to police. On Thursday, the twice daily reporting was supplanted by daily reporting.