A VIETNAMESE man locked up since Christmas over an alleged £1m cannabis farm in Port Glasgow has been freed after Home Office chiefs declared he is likely to be a victim of crime gangs.

How Van Hoang is believed to have been trafficked to Inverclyde as the prey of a modern day slavery operation and then put to work on an indoor plantation in a disused town centre bingo hall.

Prosecutors continued to oppose 40-year-old Mr How's release because the Home Office had not yet reached a conclusive decision that he — and a 17-year-old co-accused — were innocent victims of exploitation.

But defence lawyer Gerry Keenan successfully argued that the interim ruling afforded his client 'certain legal rights' and that it was 'unjust that he continues to remain incarcerated'.

Mr Keenan's successful motion for bail came after Greenock Sheriff Court was told there was still no date for a final decision in the protracted matter due to the Home Office having 'a very large caseload'.

Prosecutors told previously how they had sought updates from the Home Office on 'numerous occasions' but had been told that a 'conclusive grounds' decision had not been reached.

Fiscal depute Mark Nicol said: "From the Crown's point of view it is frustrating for all involved in this case.

"The final decision is pivotal as to where this trial goes.

"They [the Home Office] are still investigating the matter."

Solicitor Mr Keenan said: "The Home Office has confirmed a positive 'reasonable grounds' decision in favour of my client.

"This preliminary decision suggests he could be a victim of modern day slavery.

"If it is established that my client is a survivor of modern day slavery then the prosecution dies.

"I make an application for bail as a matter of urgency."

Mr Keenan pointed out that Mr How's teenage co-accused — also a Vietnamese national — has been out on bail for several months without a conclusive grounds decision in his case.

Mr How and the teenager were arrested at the former Plaza/Gala bingo hall on Port Glasgow's Brown Street last December.

Community police beat officers on foot patrol stumbled upon the pot farm.

Police estimated the potential value, subject to testing, to be in the region of a million pounds.

Mr Keenan made a motion for Mr How to be allowed bail to a Paisley-based organisation called Migrant Help who could provide him with accommodation.

He said: "Mr How has already been in custody for a significant period of time and it is unjust that he continues to be incarcerated."

Sheriff Joseph Hughes allowed bail to the care of Migrant Help.

The criminal case is due to call in court again later this year.