Two men who ran an estate agents in Forest Hill have been jailed after they set up a vast cannabis factory with a street value of almost £500,000 in one of their Crystal Palace properties.

Aidan Lynch, 51, and Jason Smart, 47 were jailed for a combined total of eight years after a three-week trial at Woolwich Crown Court.

After being found guilty on February 9, Smart was sentenced to three years in prison on the same day, whilst Lynch was today given five years in prison today.

They both denied the offences against them.

Their accomplice, Patrick McArdle, 37, of no fixed address, was jailed for five years and six months back in February after he was found guilty of conspiracy to produce cannabis and for the production of cannabis in relation to another unconnected incident in Essex.

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JAILED: Aidan Lynch, Patrick McArdle and Jason Smart.

In February 2013, Lewisham police officers raided a former bar below shops in Crystal Palace Parade, where they discovered a huge cannabis factory of 526 plants.

The factory consisted of four low, interlinked tunnels each housing approximately 125 cannabis plants which were lit with a sophisticated timed lighting system.

The plants were estimated to have a street value of £497,000.

At that time the property was empty, but two men, Lynch and Smart, later arrived whilst officers were still there.

Lynch and Smart identified themselves as the letting agents, claiming they didn’t know who the current tenant was because they had rented the property to a man they met in the pub who paid them £300 in cash.

They were arrested and officers began searches of Home to Home estate agents in Forest Hill, and both their own properties.

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The sophisticated set up in Crystal Palace.

Following the discovery of the Crystal Palace Parade factory, there were also three pairs of gloves found at the address containing the DNA of their accomplice McArdle.

During the investigation into all properties owned and managed by Home to Home estate agents, another cannabis factory was discovered at a property on Dartmouth Road, Sydenham.

Police discovered at least seven Home to Home properties which had been used as cannabis factories, with the potential for an estimated yearly turnover of £2 million.

Detective Constable Kirsty Marchi, the investigating officer from Lewisham, said: "Lynch and Smart ran a very sophisticated operation and they thought they would get away with it, but the execution of the drugs warrant at the address at Crystal Palace Parade brought their operation crashing down.

"They claimed that they had no knowledge their premises were being used as cannabis factories and it was simply unfortunate.

“Smart roped in McArdle who he knew was a criminal and could produce the cannabis whilst Lynch would allow those properties to be let out knowing that they would be used as cannabis factories."

Lynch, of Devonshire Road, Forest Hill, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to produce cannabis and six counts of permitting a premises to be used as a cannabis factory.

Smart, of Gladiator Road, Forest Hill, was found him guilty of one count conspiracy to produce cannabis and four counts of permitting a premises to be used as a cannabis factory.