Three men are behind bars after £623,000 of cannabis was smuggled into Scotland hidden in sacks of horse feed.
Gary Campbell, 37, Kieran Sinclair, 25, and Stephen Jones, 55, were caught after police stumbled across the illegal operation while searching for missing children.
Officers uncovered the drugs that were stored in a portacabin and vans at a rural site in Plains, Lanarkshire.
On Friday, a judge heard how the huge 164kg cannabis haul had been brought from Spain stashed within consignments of hay and horse feed.
They were delivered to an address linked to stables where Campbell was a director.
The trio pleaded guilty at the High Court in Glasgow on Friday to being concerned in the supply of cannabis between October 16 and 22, 2019.
They are due to be sentenced next month.
Prosecutor Liam Ewing QC told how police had been hunting for children who had gone AWOL from a nearby residential school around 4.45pm on October 22, 2019.
They then stopped Sinclair and Jones at waste ground in Arbuckle Road, Plains. Both claimed to be doing “drainage work” at the time.
A Vauxhall Vivaro van appeared, but, on seeing police, the driver jumped out and raced off into woods.
Mr Ewing said: “Sinclair and Jones ran off in the same direction and made good their escape.”
Police checked the van and immediately suspected cannabis was stored inside.
As they delved further into the remote area, officers discovered a parked Ford Transit along with a portacabin and two metal containers.
Sinclair was found to be the owner of this vehicle with Jones belonging to the Vivaro.
A large scale hunt, involving a police helicopter and a dog unit, was sparked to catch the men.
Mr Ewing said: “The Vivaro was searched and police found five sacks of animal feed within which were hidden 22kg of cannabis.
“Police found 11 sacks of feed in the Transit, hidden within was 52kg of the drug.
“The portacabin was locked and entry was forced.
“Inside was 18 sacks of animal feed which within were 90kg of cannabis.”
DNA further linked both Sinclair, of Lanark, Lanarkshire, and Jones, of Glasgow’s Partick, to the vans as well to rubber gloves and a JCB digger at the site.
Mr Ewing said: “It was apparent that the cannabis had been delivered to the site hidden in consignments of animal feed, which had then been discarded.”
Delivery had been made in the name of a “Gary Mackie” from a company based in Malaga, Spain.
This was to an address in Arbuckle Road near to where the drugs were found.
Mr Ewing said: “Subsequent enquiries revealed that the deliveries of hay from Spain had been ordered on behalf of a company in which Campbell was a director.
“Payments had been made from his bank account to cover the cost of delivery.”
Campbell, of Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, was arrested in November 2019 with Sinclair and Jones not held until the summer of 2021.
Campbell and Sinclair had been on bail before the hearing on Friday. Jones was already behind bars for another offence.
But, judge Lord Young remanded all three pending sentencing.