June 15, 2020 5.01 pm This story is over 41 months old

Foreign cannabis gardeners jailed, but weed farm owners still at large

Two men have been jailed

A large cannabis farm capable of producing up to half a million pounds worth of the drug was uncovered when police raided a property — and now two Albanian men have been jailed over it, but it’s not known whose grow it actually was.

Police began investigations into the Manor Barn at Firsby near Spilsby after being tipped off by the electricity company Western Power.

Catherine Picardo, prosecuting, said: “A number of concerns were raised by Western Power because of transponder fires.”

When police visited the barn conversion on May 14 this year they found their way in barred and the gates covered in hoarding.

Miss Picardo said: “It became clear that the electricity supply has been bypassed.

“It was a large barn conversion. Inside a workshop there were six growing areas. There were 602 cannabis plants, about half of which were immature plants and the balance were female mature plants.

“Both defendants were seen to run away from the workshop and were arrested.”

She told the court that the potential value of the cannabis varied according to the amount the plants yielded and how it was sold.

“At a lower level 16kgs would have been produced. £80,000 would be expected to be obtained for that but if sold in one gramme deals the amount would be £160,000.

“If the upper level of yield was achieved the figures would be £240,000 and £480,000 respectively.”

Police initially estimated the street value to be over £1 million in quantity, but it has since been confirmed that the actual value of the cannabis was lower.

The court was told that the two men who were detained were both Albanians who entered the UK illegally after paying to be transported in a lorry.

Gjergj Mhillaj, 25, and Alfred Smakaj, 24, both of Clough Road, Firsby, each pleaded guilty to the production of cannabis between February 27 and May 14 this year.

They were each jailed for 12 months and will face deportation when they are released from custody.

Judge Simon Hirst, passing sentence, told them: “This was an operation capable of producing significant quantities of cannabis for commercial use.

“You both performed limited roles as gardeners. Plainly only a sentence of immediate custody can be imposed.”

Terry Boston, for Mhillaj, said his client was involved as a gardener looking after the cannabis plants.

“He admits his role and wishes to be deported to Albania at the earliest opportunity.”

David Eager, for Smakaj, added: “There is no suggestion that they were anything other than gardeners.”