Albanian 'sold a dream life ' in the UK found tending to Wakefield drugs farm
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In a story that the “courts have heard many times”, Stilian Xhira was shipped from Albania but then forced to pay off debts to the trafficking gang by being put to work at the operation on Oakes Street on the Flanshaw estate of the city.
Leeds Crown Court heard that acting on a tip-off, officers raided the terraced property on October 16 and found two first-floor rooms filled with cannabis plants, along with the usual set-up of lights, transformers, fans and ventilation equipment. The electricity had also been bypassed.
In total there were 53 plants which were estimated of producing up to £60,000 worth of cannabis if sold at street level.
Two males arrived at the property during the search, one of them being 30-year-old Xhira, whose finger prints were found on the fans in the growing rooms, prosecutor Robert Galley told the court.
He was arrested and found to have £529 in cash on him, along with the keys to the house. He later admitted a charge of production of cannabis.
Mitigating, Tom Jackson said: “It’s a story I’m sure you have heard many times before. He was sold a dream of having a better life in coming here, but he had to pay to come here.
"He was told he had to work in this cannabis farm to pay off his debt. He was left in a position where he does not know the country, does not speak the language and had little other choice.
"By virtue of his guilty plea, he accepts he was not forced to be there.”
Judge Mushtaq Khokhar pointed to the fact that Xhira had the house keys and come “come and go” as he chose, and also had access to a car, meaning he was not working completely under duress.
He jailed him for 21 months. It is thought that Xhira faces deportation once he is released from prison, probably at the half-way stage of the 21 months.