An Albanian illegal immigrant who paid £4,000 to be smuggled into the UK and helped run a cannabis factory has been jailed for 15 months.
Besmir Sula was put to work in the gangsters’ cannabis factory that he paid to enter the UK after initially being intercepted by UK authorities.
Mr Sula was initially held in a detention center after entering the UK last October on a raft organized by people smugglers.
He was then taken to a Home Office-run hotel where he was given a phone that allowed him to communicate with his family.
Sula was then contacted by the man in his village from whom he had borrowed the money to fund his illegal boat trip and was told to pay off the debt.
Pictured: Migrants arrive on Dungeness beach in October last year after being rescued in the English Channel
The 19-year-old was collected from the hotel and driven to a disused building between the rural villages of Cranbrook and Hawkhurst in Kent.
On arrival, he was effectively ‘locked’ into the property to act as a gardener for the 500 plants.
He was there for about two months when police discovered the operation on December 29 last year.
‘Considerable quantities’ of cannabis were found at his sentencing hearing at Maidstone Crown Court Kent, which was deemed ‘for commercial use with significant financial benefit’.
Sula pleaded guilty to producing cannabis and appeared in the dock, assisted by an interpreter.
His lawyer, John FitzGerald, said the teen, who has not previously been convicted, has been the victim of “organized gangs that exploit people to make them believe that our streets are paved with gold.”
“He comes from a village in Albania – very rural, very small and very poor. He earned 300 euros a month working all night in a bakery and thought he wanted a better life,” FitzGerald said, according to Ferrari Press Agency.
He borrowed €4,500 from a man in Albania to travel illegally to the UK. He got into a boat with others he had never met and arranged by the kind of organized gangs that exploit people into believing that our streets are paved with gold.
Pictured: Migrants arriving in Dover this week were helped aboard the RNLI Dover Lifeboat following a small boat incident in the English Channel
“He was picked up at the hotel and taken to this rural place, in the middle of nowhere, and to this disused building.”
FitzGerald said Sula was “young, naive” and a “victim of modern slavery.”
Police said all the doors and windows of the former company building were boarded up, except for a small one on the top floor.
He jumped through the window with a 16-year-old boy when police arrived, but the pair were found in an adjoining garden.
Since his arrest, Sula has been in custody, with his lawyer urging the court to be “merciful” and saying he had spent “enough” time behind bars.
Judge Douglas Marks Moore said the job of caring for the cannabis plants was “minor but essential.”
“You came to this country illegally on a boat. You had paid a significant amount and then you were contacted and left the control of the authority you controlled at the time to be taken to this specific location in a quiet part of Kent,” he told Sula.
“I accept that this establishment was all but sealed to stay there.
‘There’s no question that this was a commercial operation and well-designed… If you didn’t have gardeners tending to the plants, they’d die. Although it is a minor task, it is an important task.’
He ordered Sula to serve his sentence in a young offenders’ facility.
The judge said it would be up to the Home Office to decide whether to deport him after his release.
Prosecutor Eleanor Scott-Davies said police broke into Brook House in Cranbrook Road after hearing a telephone ring and footsteps nearby.
The building would contain a huge amount of cables to extract electricity, as well as two beds and a well-stocked refrigerator.
“It was a very professional company that was able to produce significant quantities for commercial use,” says Scott-Davies.
“The Prosecutor acknowledges that he performed his duties under direction, but he must have been aware of the scope of the operation and the expectation of substantial financial gain.”
The judge was told that the 16-year-old found with Sula has pleaded not guilty and will appear in juvenile court in June.