'Gardener' jailed for large-scale cannabis farm at Wakefield city centre house

An illegal immigrant who was caught tending to a 'large-scale' cannabis farm at Wakefield city centre house has been jailed.

By Nick Frame
Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 3:21 pm

Elson Shahini says he had been brought over from Albania five years ago hidden in a truck and was forced to work for gangs.

Prosecuting at Leeds Crown Court, Howard Shaw said police suspected a cannabis farm was in operation at the property on Lower York Street on February 6.

They went to the property and smashed their way in when they detected the smell of cannabis.

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The house on Lower York Street was raided.

They found plants being grown in five rooms - a total of 277, including 49 mature plants that were being dried out.

They found the front door of the property barricaded, while others were blocked.

A CCTV system was in operation, and they found a sophisticated set up including lighting, heating, fans, timers and transformers. The electricity had also been bypassed.

Shahini, 22, said he had been in the property only three weeks, but gave no other comment during his police interview.

The Crown accepted his basis of plea, that he had only been acting as a gardener in a larger criminal empire.

Appearing in court via video link from HMP Leeds, where he was being held on remand, he admitted a charge of producing cannabis.

Mitigating, James Littlehales said that Shahini had been spoken to by the Home Office who gave him the chance to be deported of voluntarily leave the country once his sentence ends.

Judge Geoffrey Marson QC told Shahini: "It was a large-scale ongoing operation and was capable of producing a significant amount of cannabis.

"You played a lesser role but an important role. Inevitably, there has to be a custodial sentence."

He jailed him for 14 months.