Cannabis farm worth over £300,000 found growing at former city centre snooker hall
Police found more than 1,000 cannabis plants when they executed a search warrant at a former snooker hall.
Leeds Crown Court heard the plants were capable of producing around £322,000 worth of the class B drug.
West Yorkshire Police officers made the discovery when they went to the former Rex Snooker Club, on Stanley Road, Wakefield, on July 30 last year.
Michael Greenhalgh, prosecuting, said the officers found that the premises had been converted into a cannabis farm with 1,284 plants growing in five rooms.
The building had been equipped with "sophisticated" heating, lighting and growing equipment.
A smaller room on the upper floor contained three beds and a kitchen area where Shemsi Shahini, Doraldo Shahu and Arselon Cenaj were living.
The electricity supply to the building had also been bypassed.
Mr Greenhalgh said the police found all three defendants hiding in a loft in the building.
They were linked to the offending through fingerprint and DNA evidence.
The prosecutor said the plants were analysed by experts who estimated they were capable of producing 32kgs of cannabis.
All three defendants, all Albanian nationals of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to producing cannabis.
When interviewed about the offending they told officers they had been forced to look after the plants by criminals who had arranged their illegal entry into the UK.
Lawyers for the men described how they had come to the UK in the hope of a better life but had agreed to tend the plants out of desperation in order to clear debts they owed for being brought into the country.
Shahini, 37, was jailed for 18 months. Cenaj, 29, and Shahu, 30, were both jailed for 20 months.
Judge Mushtaq Khokhar said: "You were willing participants to your illegal entry into the UK.
"It is also clear that none of you had the money to pay the people who were going to facilitate your entry in to this country
"That would have been obvious to you."
After the case, Inspector Paul Fraser of Wakefield City and North West Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “This was clearly a significant cannabis seizure. We welcome the sentencing of these three men.
“We do assess every piece of information received and link in closely with our partners in Wakefield CID and the force’s Programme Precision to make sure appropriate resources are brought to bear on drug producers both large and small.
“Wakefield City NPT officers listen to the concerns of our community and these results are further evidence of the NPT and the residents working together to make the communities of Wakefield safer places.
“I would further encourage anybody who has any intelligence or information to share it by either using the West Yorkshire Police website or by contacting the NPT directly.”