People smugglers 'put illegal immigrant to work' at Leeds cannabis farm to pay off debt

A cannabis plant
Photo:  Leon Neal/AFP/Getty ImagesA cannabis plant
Photo:  Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
A cannabis plant Photo: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
An Albanian illegal immigrant who a court heard was 'put to work' at a Leeds cannabis farm to pay off his debt to people smugglers has been jailed.

Fatbardh Bytyqi worked as a gardener at the drugs farm at a house on Longroyrd Terrace, Holbeck, to repay a debt to the smugglers who brought him to the UK from France, Leeds Crown Court was told.

Police found a total of 168 cannabis plants at a sophisticated commercial drugs farm at the house after being called to reports of a burglary at the address on August 8.

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A number of rooms had been converted to grow cannabis with equipment including specialist lighting, heating and extraction fans.

Gareth Henderson-Moore, prosecuting, said Bytyqi was found lying on a mattress in the living room and arrested.

Bytyqi, 28, of no fixed abode, admitted producing cannabis.

Elyas Patel, mitigating, said Bytyqi is from a very poor family in northern Albani and was responsible for his elderly father and his brother's two young children following his brother's sudden death.

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Mr Patel said Bytyqi made the decision to leave Albania and was smuggled into the UK via France around nine months ago.

Mr Patel said: "He had no means to pay them for his illegal entry and ended up with a significant debt as a result.

"He was put to work at the cannabis grow and made to work off that sizeable debt."

Mr Patel said Bytyqi was free to come and go from the cannabis farm, but feared his family in Albania were at risk of reprisals if he failed to do the gardening work.

Mr Patel said: "He was living in relative squalor."

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Mr Patel said Bytyqi wants to return to his family in Albania after serving his prison sentence in the UK.

Judge Geoffrey Marson QC told him: "I am of course sympathetic to your circumstances in Albania.

"I'm not sympathetic that you came to this country illegally and as a consequence got yourself into debt, as a result of which you were recruited to assist in looking after a sophisticated cannabis farm."

Jailing Bytyqi for 14 months, Judge Marson said: "Thereafter it is very likely that you will be - and indeed you wish to be - deported back to Albania."