Illegal immigrant grew cannabis farm at house in Leeds to pay off £40,000 debt to people smugglers

An illegal immigrant who was arrested at a house in Leeds where 60 cannabis plants were found growing has been sent to prison.

Saturday, 12th September 2020, 6:00 am

Xhesion Rexha told police he had agreed to take charge of the cannabis farm in order to pay off a £40,000 debt he owed to the people who had arranged for his illegal entry into the UK from his home in Albania.

Leeds Crown Court heard West Yorkshire Police received intelligence that cannabis was being grown at the house on Bayswater Grove, Harehills.

A search warrant was executed on August 14 this year and officers forced their way into the property.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Bayswater Grove, Harehills

Martin Robertshaw, prosecuting, said: "The only person they found inside was this defendant, who readily admitted that there was cannabis being grown."

The plants were found in pots in the cellar and in a first floor bedroom.

Rooms had been fitted with air extraction systems, lamps and fans.

The electricity to the property had also been bypassed.

Rexha, 25, was interviewed and told officers he had been staying at the house and looking after the plants for two weeks.

He said the cannabis farm had already been set up by the time he moved into the property.

Mr Robertshaw said: "His role was to work as a gardener.

"He said he had not been working under duress and expected to received ten per cent of the profits from the grow.

"He also said that he owed £40,000 to people in Albania who organised his illegal entry into the UK."

Geraldine Kelly, mitigating, said Rexha has no previous convictions and admitted his offending at the earliest possible opportunity.

Ms Kelly said: "While he was to receive ten per cent of the profits he had no idea what ten per cent represented.

"He feared for the safety of his family in Albania if he did not pay back that debt."

The court heard Rexha initially had a job in the construction industry in south-east England but came to Yorkshire after losing his employment when his immigration status was discovered.

Ms Kelly said Rexha had qualified as a photographer in his home country but had been unable to find work there.

The barrister added: "He came to this country to pursue a better life.

"He regrets very much how this turned out and by his plea he accepts responsibility."

Rexha was jailed for 12 months.

Judge Geoffrey Marson QC said: "I make it clear that I am not sentencing you for coming to this country illegally.

"I am sentencing you for being involved in the production of cannabis.

"I accept that you had been acting as a gardener for a relatively short period.

"This was a large and extensive cannabis factory involving 60 plants.

"Although I do not have the potential yield, it is clear that it would have been very significant.

"Only immediate custody is appropriate for this offending."

Rexha was told it is likely that he will be deported after completing his sentence.