A judge has jailed 12 men for their part in a massive cannabis growing operation uncovered in Wakefield with an estimated annual yield of £2m.
Sentencing them at Leeds Crown Court yesterday Judge Rodney Jameson QC said: “It is one of the largest that has been detected so far as I am aware in the North of England.”
It comes as West Yorkshire Police, in a separate move, announced plans to bring in a private firm to dismantle almost 1,000 cannabis farms across the county.
At Leeds Crown Court yesterday, Timothy Capstick, prosecuting, said when police raided the warehouse in Holmefield Lane, Thornes, on July 17, 2012 they discovered 15 grow tents of which 11 contained 960 maturing cannabis plants while the other four were being used for a previously harvested crop.
Based on three crops a year there was a potential yield with a wholesale price of £400,000 and in street deals worth around £2.1m, said Mr Capstick.
Several of the group were arrested at the unit or in the surrounding area including Aidan Kent Panwar who was found hiding in a brown wheelie bin. The warehouse had been rented by Anthony John Stewart in November the previous year.
Police surveillance had shown those visiting the warehouse did not travel there in their own vehicles but would park them elsewhere, often at the Colton Mills complex in Leeds and travel in hired vans picking up the “gardeners”.
Stewart, 41 of Glendale, Wakefield who was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to produce cannabis was jailed for eight years three months.
Jamie Coolican, 37 of Whitehouse Lane, Leeds found guilty of the same offence was jailed for seven years six months. The judge said he had supplied much of the finance for the infrastructure.
Panwar, 31 of Gerard House, Fairhaven Green, Bradford, who admitted conspiracy was jailed for five years three months. Ian Heath Green, 24 of Rowton Thorpe, Greengates, Bradford who admitted conspiracy, possessing cocaine with intent to supply and possessing cannabis was jailed for a total of five and a half years.
Jeremy O’Connor, 31 of Thorn Drive, Leeds convicted by the jury of conspiracy was jailed for five years. Christian Kaye, 35 of Pinfold Grove, Leeds was jailed for three years eight months and his brother Andrew Kaye, 39 of Coronation Parade, Halton Moor was sentenced to three years four months after both admitted conspiracy.
Michael Paul Kaye, 56, also of Coronation Parade was jailed for a total of four years after he admitted conspiracy and a separate charge of producing cannabis.
Scott Harland, 27 of Exmouth Place, Bradford was found guilty by the jury of conspiracy and jailed for three years six months.
Nicholas Coleman, 28 of Temple Avenue, Leeds and Samuel Shackleton, 22 of Fourlands Road, Idle, Bradford were each jailed for two years four months and Rhys Iwanczuk, 22 of Jardin Close, Eccleshill, Bradford sentenced to two years after each admitted conspiracy.