Closed-down Leamington motorbike showroom put to a different use by criminals – as a cannabis factory
Officers discovered a crop which could have been worth up to £360,000 on the street at the former Fretton’s Motorcycles in Clemens Street - a man has been jailed
A closed-down Leamington motorbike showroom was put to a different use by criminals – as a cannabis factory.
And when the former Fretton’s Motorcycles premises in Clemens Street was raided by the police, officers discovered a crop which could have been worth up to £360,000 on the street.
Eduard Elezi (27) who was arrested inside, has now been jailed for 15 months after pleading guilty at Warwick Crown Court to producing cannabis.
Prosecutor Simon Rippon said that on March 15 the police executed a search warrant at business premises in Clemens Street, Leamington, which Judge Anthony Potter observed was a former motorcycle showroom.
Inside they found that four rooms were dedicated to the growing of cannabis using a sophisticated set-up which included the use of ultra-violet lights.
One of the rooms contained 241 young cannabis plants, while in the other three were a total of 188 fully-grown plants.
Based on figures given in a previous similar case, depending on the yield from each plant, the eventual crop would have been worth between £120,000 and £360,000.
The electricity meter had been by-passed, and there was also evidence that the loft had been used to strip plants from a previous crop.
A further room, where Elezi was found, was accessed via a loft hatch and contained bedding and a fully-stocked fridge, a phone and keys to the premises.
Judge Potter commented: “This court has been dealing with cannabis cultivations of this sort, run by Albanian gangs, on a regular basis.
“We are dealing with an operation which provides criminals with tens of thousands of pounds on which they do not pay tax and which causes damage to the community.
“The defendant has no previous convictions, but it is plain he came into the United Kingdom illegally and was seeking to pay off the no doubt large debt he owed for being brought into this country.
“He must have had an idea of the scale of the operation, because he was there. It was not just a couple of plants on a windowsill.
“He said ‘My trip to the UK was paid for by other persons, and my job in the UK was to repay them.’”
Olivia Appleby, defending, said: “It is right that there are a significant amount of plants in the property. What I can’t offer is how much this defendant would benefit from it.
“He carried out this work to pay off a debt to those higher in the chain.
“He had only been there for five days, and was under the illusion when taken to that property that he would be carrying out proper work, and when he got there he felt deceived but that he had been backed into a corner.”
Jailing Elezi, Judge Potter told him: “You came to the United Kingdom on the 5th of March from Albania.
“You entered the United Kingdom illegally, and as a result you were in considerable debt to those who arranged your entry into this country.
“In order to pay off that debt you were brought to Leamington Spa on the 10th or 11th of March, and you were living at the property when the police entered four or five days later.
“A property very close to the town centre which had, in a particularly brazen manner, been converted effectively into a factory for the production of cannabis. It is plain this was being grown on a commercial scale.
“The amount of energy facilities like this take up is enormous and, as in many such cases, the criminals with which you were working had bypassed the electricity meter – so effectively the public was paying for them to grow the cannabis with the promise of enormous tax-free benefit to them.
“You were living on the site in the one room that did not have plants in it, and you had the keys to the property so you could come and go.
“This was plainly an operation capable of producing significant quantities of cannabis for commercial sale. It was a highly professional operation.”
After the case, PC James Lake from Leamington Safer Neighbourhood Team said "This is a great result and once again shows that we are taking drug dealing seriously in Leamington.
"The fact that the judge has imposed a custodial sentence shows that they share our view that this kind of offending is not acceptable.
"If anyone has any information about drug production, dealing or use I would encourage them to contact us and share their concerns. I hope that this shows that we will act on any information that is given to us.
"Anyone with information can contact us on 101, via our website or information can be provided anonymously via CrimeStoppers."