Three men involved in the largest cannabis growing operation found in Lincolnshire were jailed at Lincoln Crown Court on Thursday.
The cannabis farm, capable of producing drugs worth millions of pounds, was discovered after police raided an industrial unit on Freiston Road in Boston earlier this year.
A total of 2,985 cannabis plants were found growing in four rooms within the 50,000 sq ft unit.
The electricity supply had been bypassed and a hydroponics system was installed along with ventilation ducts. Part of the building was set aside as living quarters for men involved with growing the plants.
At the time the cannabis farm was discovered, Lincolnshire Police said: “The sheer scale of this grow, housed within a 50,000 square foot unit, has required the tireless efforts of a large number of staff. This is, by far, the largest scale cannabis grow the county has ever seen.”
Kaja Reiff-Musgrove, prosecuting, said: “This was an industrial scale cannabis grow. The estimated yield is between 79 kilos and 239 kilos.
“The street sale value of the cannabis at the lower estimated yield would have been £800,000. The higher estimated yield would have produced a value in the millions of pounds.”
Police arrested Xhemal Derdi after entering the building and then found a second man, Alfred Alla, hiding in the ventilation ducts. Later officers returned to the unit and detained Ismail Elezi who was found inside.
Miss Reiff-Musgrove said: “The defendants are Albanian nationals. They all said that they had entered the country illegally.”
Xhemal Derdi, 24, Alfred Alla, 21, and Ismail Elezi, 26, who were all living within the unit, each admitted production of cannabis on March 25 this year.
They were each jailed for 39 months and will face deportation when they are released from their sentences.
Judge Catarina Sjolin Knight told them: “The cannabis grow discovered by the police that day was industrial in scale.
“It was a professional enterprise. The electricity was bypassed, there were hydroponics and ventilation fitted. Balsamic vinegar was being used to mask the small.
“You were obviously aware and knew of the scale of the operation. You were working for financial gain.
“At the higher yield the wholesale value of the cannabis would be over £1 million. The street value would generate £2.4 million.”
“You were working as a team to run the production side of an industrial scale operation.”
Sunil Khanna, for Derdi, said his client had been working in the construction industry in Italy and Germany but employment opportunities dried up as a result of covid. He was then offered the chance to come to the UK and agreed but was left with a debt for being transported here.
As a result, he said, Derdi agreed to work for three months for those who brought him to the UK to clear his debt.
Neil Sands, for Alla, said he was involved in tending to the plants and there was no evidence he was involved to a greater extent.
“He came here to find work in order to send money back to his family. He accepts he came here illegally. At such point as he is released, he will be deported back to his own country. He came looking for a better life but has found only custody.”
Jason Cross, for Elezi, said: “The evidence against him is consistent with him having a lesser role. There is no suggestion he was responsible for setting up or maintaining the equipment.
“He came here on the understanding that he would be given the opportunity to engage in legitimate work. He feels he was lied to and exploited.”
Mr Cross said that since being remanded in custody Elezi has developed health problems and is currently being investigated for potential issues with both kidneys.