THREE men who created a secret drug farm in Wigan cultivating cannabis worth more than half a million pounds have been jailed.
Police raided the premises in Wigan Wallgate after reports of suspicious activity and found three Albanian men living there and tending the illicit crop.
A judge was told that there was evidence that there had been previous harvests though the total value is unclear as it was not known how long this commercial operation had been underway.
The Albanians, Vullnet Cjapi, Afrim Hoxha and Ledian Kola, all pleaded guilty to producing cannabis and were each jailed for three years and four months.
Sentencing them Judge Alan Conrad, QC said that no one had forced them to come to this country and once here the pressure on them to work as gardeners for the cannabis crop was economic rather than physical.
“It is clear you had an understanding and awareness of the scale of this operation which involved the highly organised cultivation and production of cannabis plants.”
Neville Biddle, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that “someone higher up the chain had set up the cannabis factory” and as illegal immigrants looking for work, food and accommodation they were vulnerable.
On May 5 police raided a large disused Victorian building, Bank Chambers, “after reports of people coming and going and the smell of cannabis. They found the three floors had been converted to a cannabis farm and it had clearly been there for some considerable length of time.”
“It was clearly a well organised operation with separate rooms for small, medium and large sized plants and the electricity meter had been by-passed.”
Mr Biddle said that there were a total of 2,202 plants and a sophisticated heating and lighting system was in use. The plants had a potential yield worth £550,000 on the streets.
There were three beds in the premises and a make shift kitchen and Cjapi, 27, Hoxha, 45 and Kola, 39, were all arrested.
In defence the court heard that they men had not met before arriving at the premises and had all travelled over separately from Albania, arriving in lorries from France.
They had earlier had other jobs elsewhere in the country such as working in a car wash but none was known to have any previous convictions.