Rome police bust cannabis farm in Mussolini-era metro

ROME Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:57am EDT

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ROME (Reuters) - Police in Italy have found a large and flourishing cannabis factory in an abandoned metro tunnel built beneath Rome during the fascist era of Benito Mussolini, a senior police officer told Reuters on Tuesday.

Police raided the tunnel, which is 1 km (0.6 miles) long and was officially being used as a mushroom farm, after detecting the pungent odor of marijuana around its entrance last week.

The tunnel is close to the Italian central bank's vaults in southeastern Rome. Underground passages in the area are often used for mushroom growing, but on Saturday police discovered that this particular farm was also cultivating rows and rows of marijuana behind a wall at the back.

Video footage released by the police showed thriving marijuana plants stretching along the last section of the 4000 square meter (43,000 square feet) tunnel, along with stacks of bags filled with cannabis next to weighing and processing equipment.

Italy's financial police said they had confiscated 340 kilos of the drug worth an estimated 3 million euros - one of their biggest ever cannabis busts. The 57 year-old owner of the farm has been arrested.

The tunnel was built as part of a metro network planned by Mussolini in the 1930s, but work was abandoned after Italy joined World War Two in 1940.

(Reporting By Catherine Hornby; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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