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Million pound cannabis farm gardener tells court 'I'm guilty, but a victim'

PUBLISHED: 16:00 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:53 27 March 2019

The 800 cannabis plants found at industrial premises at Redgrave, near Diss, had an estimated street value of £1m  Picture: SUFFOLK POLICE

The 800 cannabis plants found at industrial premises at Redgrave, near Diss, had an estimated street value of £1m Picture: SUFFOLK POLICE

Archant

Two illegal immigrants caught cultivating a million pound cannabis farm on a Suffolk industrial estate have been characterised as 'victims' of a larger organised crime network.

The unit at Redgrave Business Centre, on the edge of Redgrave, near Diss, where two people were arrested and a large cannabis factory was found  Picture: SIMON PARKINThe unit at Redgrave Business Centre, on the edge of Redgrave, near Diss, where two people were arrested and a large cannabis factory was found Picture: SIMON PARKIN

Daniel Muhaj and Eglant Selenica were described as “gardeners” for an industrial cannabis growing operation uncovered by police at Redgrave Business Centre, near Diss, on Monday.

Both Albanians admitted cannabis production when they appeared at Suffolk Magistrates’ Court in custody on Wednesday.

Speaking through an interpreter, Muhaj told the court: “I’m guilty because I was found at that place, although I’m a victim.”

Solicitor Jeremy Kendall then explained how both defendants entered the UK to discover their employment options were limited to becoming “expendable” links in a larger supply chain.

Redgrave Business Centre, a development of industrial units on the edge of Redgrave, near Diss, where a large cannabis factory has been found by police  Picture: SIMON PARKINRedgrave Business Centre, a development of industrial units on the edge of Redgrave, near Diss, where a large cannabis factory has been found by police Picture: SIMON PARKIN

Prosecutor Lesla Small had earlier described how Muhaj and Selenica were caught when business centre staff reported the smell of cannabis coming from the unit, which was leased by two men, ‘Marius and Demetrius’, at the beginning of November.

Inside, police found more than 800 plants, hydroponic growing equipment and mobile phones, along with clothing, bedding and a small kitchen used by the pair.

Mr Kendall said: “There’s no suggestion they were anything but gardeners looking after the plants.

“They were told food would be delivered; to keep out of sight and not attract any attention.

Sign for Redgrave Business Centre  Picture: SIMON PARKINSign for Redgrave Business Centre Picture: SIMON PARKIN

“They performed a limited function under direction. They had no influence on those above them, and came to this situation through a degree of pressure, or force of circumstances.”

Selenica, 35, a married father-of-one, had travelled by coach from Romania without documents, but with plans to work in the building trade, until being offered £1,500 to occupy the unit for a month.

Muhaj, 29, who paid £8,000 to enter on a lorry, was unable to trace a friend who promised him work to repay the debt.

Both were registered as living at the business centre in Gallows Hill, Redgrave.

“Those he owed money do not go through the debt enforcement process,” said Mr Kendall.

“He was told to do this, and the money would be paid. Hence, he used the word victim.

“He was not in a position of having no choice, but is guilty of naivety to the options available.

“All they want is to go home. Ironically, they will, because Immigration will deport them.”

The pair will be sentenced at crown court on a date to be confirmed.

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