Cannabis producer paid smugglers who brought him from Albania
An illegal immigrant who worked on a cannabis farm in a desperate attempt to repay debt to those who smuggled him into the country has been jailed.
Albanian Elson Balla was brought to the UK last December and following information from local residents he was arrested working on a cannabis farm in Stockton in February.
Cleveland Police searched the property and recovered nearly 100 plants from the “ professional setup, ” Teesside Crown Court said.
Nigel Soppitt, who has sued, said ‘cannabis skunk’ would have been in the order of £ 78,000 if sold on the streets.
The court heard how people had expressed concerns about the strong odor and constant buzz coming out of the property.
Mr Soppitt said: “The defendant was alone in the address and it should be noted that the keys were in the front and back door, which meant that the defendant could come and go as they wished.
“Inside the property, we found a well-managed and professionally installed cannabis crop. On the ground floor there were 48 plants and upstairs there were 46 plants with a calculated growth of 5 kg of skunk cannabis.
“The wholesale value would be around £ 28,000 with a market value of £ 78,000.”
Mr Soppitt said electricity had been bypassed in professional work, that there was insulation, electric fans and an irrigation system in place.
“When he was arrested and questioned he made no comment but had prepared a statement saying he entered the UK in December 2020 and did so to reimburse those who brought him in.”
The 26-year-old, from Autumn Grove, Stockton, has pleaded guilty to being involved in the production of cannabis.
Ismael Uddin, in Mitigation, said his client pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.
He said: “It was to repay his debts that he had incurred for entering the country when he was not allowed to be here. It was a criminal enterprise and my client does not speak. English or has no qualifications to help them become gainful employment.
“There was never a realistic prospect that my client would get a job or be legally able to repay the huge amount of money he owed to the people who helped him enter the UK and he was encouraged to participate to repay debts. ”
Judge Timothy Stead jailed Balla for ten months and ordered all drugs and equipment to be seized and destroyed.
“You participated as a gardener in a huge cannabis grow house, it could have produced around 5kg of skunk cannabis,” he said.
“I give you all the credit because you pleaded guilty at the first reasonable opportunity and therefore I am giving you ten months.
“You will serve five months of your sentence but I do not know if you will be released or not because of your immigration status.”