He was led away by Corrective Services as his lawyer scrambled to make an immediate bail application pending an appeal.

District Court Judge Peter Zahra said Casella was well aware two other men which included his close friend Luigi Fato had planted close to three thousand cannabis plants on a property at Crowther in 2013.

He pleaded guilty to concealing a serious indictable offence after the Crown alleged he provided funding, advice on irrigation and visited the site on at least three occasions that year.

Casella initially denied any knowledge but was caught on phone taps discussing the enterprise.

His barrister Graham Turnbull SC argued his client was motivated by misplaced loyalty to his friend Fato who was jailed for at least 12 years for leading the cultivation.

Casella resigned as a director of the family companies after he was charged.

It emerged he was jailed for five years in 2005 for his role in a marijuana plantation in Queensland.

Judge Zahra agreed more than two decades had elapsed since then.

Nevertheless he said that was a serious case because Casella did not go to police even though he was “aware of the scale and sophistication of the enterprise.”

He noted his contribution to the Griffith community through the employment of a thousand locals and significant donations.

But he said no other penalty than jail was appropriate.

The bail application will be heard later today.