TWO illegal immigrants have been jailed after they were caught running a giant cannabis factory in a disused social club.
Nearly 500 plants worth hundreds of thousand of pounds were found by police in 10 rooms when they raided the former Arundel Club in Blaenavon last August, including in the gents’ toilets beneath the urinals.
Albanian duo Mikeljan Dusha, 27, and Dylber Selimllari, 28, were being “exploited” by gangsters to house sit the plants, Cardiff Crown court was told.
Both tried to escape through a window when police forced their way into the premises during the early hours of Sunday, August 27, but Dusha fell and needed hospital treatment for an injured ankle.
Prosecutor Peter Donnison said: “The police executed a misuse of drugs warrant at the premises on Ton Mawr Road during the early hours of Sunday, August 27.
“It was packed with cannabis in 10 rooms and there was a flat upstairs where the defendants were living.
“These living quarters were clean and tidy and there was a kitchen, bathroom and three beds.”
Both men, of no fixed abode, admitted involvement in the production of a class B drug. Gareth Williams, representing the two, said they were “desperate for money” and had been installed at the premises by others.
“They had no management function... there was an element of taking advantage of people at their lowest ebb,” he added.
Sentencing them both to 27 months in jail, Recorder Greg Bull KC told the defendants: “You both came to this country from Albania having entered the UK illegally. You would have known that by reason of your status you would be unable to either claim benefit in this country or work here legally.
“The social club known as the Arundel Club became vacant and it was taken over by a group of people who placed you two there.
“For at least three months prior to your arrest, you participated in the cultivation of cannabis and 497 plants were found at various stages of growth. You played your parts in protecting and cultivating that crop which could have produced cannabis worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
He also told the pair they would “probably” be deported back to Albania after serving jail terms.
PC Danielle Lundrigan, officer in the case, said after the hearing:
“This sentence evidences our commitment to tackling organised crime in our communities.
“Both men were involved in an organised and illegal enterprise operating in the heart of the Gwent valleys.
“We’ve disrupted the source of the operation and, in turn, protected our communities from drugs and associated criminality.
“If you have information or concerns about drug supply in your area, then get in touch with us immediately.
“As this case shows, evidence from the community is vital to us bringing people before the courts to face justice for the crimes they have committed.”
The 122-year-old Arundel building, which first became a social club in 1952, sold at auction two years ago for £175,000 more than seven years after closing down.