A man found on a “fancy” cannabis farm in a terraced house in a village in the Dulais Valley claimed he and a friend were only there to attend a rave.
Police found five Albanian men on Banwen’s property when they rushed to the address following reports of suspicious activity from neighbors.
Three of the men attempted to escape by climbing onto a roof, but officers firing stun guns persuaded them to descend back to earth. One of the group members would later tell the officers that he and another of them were only in Banwen to attend an outdoor musical evening.
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Swansea Crown Court has heard that every room as well as the attic of the house has been dedicated to growing cannabis, and much of the harvest is only days away from harvest.
Craig Jones, prosecutor, said police executed a search warrant at a house on Roman Road in Banwen on March 27 this year following reports from people living on the streets of suspicious activity at the exterior of the property.
As police entered the house, three men – now known to be Myzofer Qelia, Illr Rexhaj and Taulant Mata – attempted to escape by exiting through an upstairs window and climbing up to the roof. The rooftop standoff ended when the police unsheathed their Tasers. A search of the house revealed two other men, Samel Elezi and Bekim Tafaj, hidden in the attic. Again, they surrendered when the Tasers were deployed.
The court heard that the house, including the loft, had been converted into a “sophisticated” cannabis production facility with lights, fans and grow tents, and that the property’s electricity meter had been turned off. bypassed. One of the rooms served as a “nursery” where cuttings were grown. Officers also found the keys to the Mercedes and Vauxhall cars which were parked on Roman Road, and around Â£ 2,000 in cash.
Mr Jones said police estimated much of the harvest to be days before harvest and the total value of the harvest at retail prices may have exceeded Â£ 210,000.
In subsequent interviews, Tafaj claimed he traveled to Banwen with his co-defendant Mata to attend a rave-type rally. Meanwhile, in his interview, Elezi claimed he was heavily in debt in Albanian and was kidnapped and taken to Belgium before being shipped to the UK and put to work.
Samel Elezi, 33, Myzofer Qelia, 41, and Taulant Mata, 23, all homeless, and Illr Rexhaj, 42, of Barrett Road, Walthamstow, London, had all previously pleaded guilty to producing cannabis when they appeared in the dock for sentencing. Bekim Tafaj, 34, also of Barrett Road, Walthastow, London, had previously been convicted of the same charge at trial. The court heard that none of them had been convicted in the UK or in other jurisdictions.
Wafa Shah, for Mata, said his client was a qualified plumber who had returned to Albania and had come to the UK hoping to do this trade, “like many people who come after being sold. by officers on what might happen, “he had found himself unable to work. The lawyer said Mata owed the agent Â£ 15,000 in debt.
Mohammed Bashir, for Rexhaj, said that in 2019 the defendant paid an agent Â£ 22,000 to travel to the UK with the intention of working to send money home to his parents, initially working in cash until it could normalize. their immigration status. The lawyer said out of “necessity, stupidity and naivety” that he was then involved in the cannabis operation.
Islam Khan, for Elezi, said his client came to the UK in December 2020 and found he had put his wife and child in Albania in a “very difficult position” by his actions.
Mizan Abdulrouf, on behalf of Qelia, said the accused had a wife and two young children in Albania, was heavily in debt and had acted out of “desperation” as he had done.
Dudley Beal, for Tafaj, said his client’s position was somewhat different – he said Tafaj came to the UK in 2017 and worked as a waiter, and got indefinite leave to stay in the country.
Judge Catherine Richards told the defendants that each of them played an important and trustworthy role in the cannabis cultivation exploitation of an organized criminal group.
With discounts for their guilty pleas, Qelia was sentenced to 25 months in prison, and Elezi, Mata and Rexha to 22 months each. Tafaj, who was found guilty at trial and therefore did not have the merit of having pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 30 months. The defendants will serve half of these periods of detention before being released on authorization.
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