Three UK men have been charged with drug and slavery offences after the discovery of a huge cannabis grow-op stashed inside a nuclear bomb shelter.

Police say an estimated $1.6 million worth of plants were seized.

The former Ministry of Defence bunker was built in the 1980s to protect local dignitaries and government officials in the event of a nuclear attack.

The underground complex had nearly all of its 20 rooms converted for pot production and the nuclear blast doors remained intact, meaning police were unable to force an entry and had to wait outside until three men left and used their secret keys to get inside.

The three men were charged with conspiring to hold another person in slavery or servitude, abstracting electricity without authority and conspiracy to produce a quantity of cannabis today at Swindon Magistrates’ Court. They were remanded in custody and will next appear March 29.

The operation was staffed by trafficked three Vietnamese teenagers and one adult working in slave-like conditions, police say. They were released from custody without charge after saying they’d been held there against their will.

A Wiltshire police spokesperson described the living conditions in the bunker, hidden in the countryside, as “grim for anyone, let alone a 15-year-old.”

The abandoned bunker isn’t the oddest place UK police have discovered illegal grow-ops so far this year. Earlier this month, an operation with 50 mature plants was discovered inside a Legoland theme park.

An otherwise civilized country, England remains an outlier to the growing international acceptance of recreational cannabis use, and the maximum sentence for those caught cultivating plants is up to 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine

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