Jail for ‘gardener’ of �191k cannabis factory

A VIETNAMESE teenager staying in the UK illegally has been jailed after he admitted helping run a huge cannabis factory in Weston.

Le Quang Nguyen, aged 19, was a ‘gardener’ looking after more than 150 plants at flats in Severn Road, Bristol Crown Court was told last week.

He admitted to police upon his arrest on September 20 that he had been staying in the country illegally since arriving in the UK two years ago. He said he had not been threatened into helping produce the cannabis.

Nicholas Fridd, prosecuting, told the court that officers discovered nearly 20kg of the class B drug, worth an estimated �191,100, after they raided two adjoining flats.

Nguyen told the police during interview that he did not know what he was growing and said he was paid �1-2,000 per month for cultivating the plants. He sent half of the money back to his family.

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Police believe Nguyen was staying on site after finding a mattress in the downstairs flat.

Ken Bell, defending, said Nguyen had acted as a ‘gardener’ for the operation rather than being the mastermind behind it.

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Judge Mark Horton, sentencing the teenager to 18 months in jail for his involvement in producing cannabis, said it was almost inevitable that an illegal immigrant would end up sucked into criminal activity when lawful work was impossible.

He said: “We are talking about vast amounts of money involved. This is the type of covert cannabis factory which is cropping up across the country in the major cities but now also in towns and probably villages in the United Kingdom.

“They are carefully created with sophisticated growing equipment with carefully located extractor fans so those in the vicinity don’t realise what goes on there.

“The fact is that the police recovered no more than 50 per cent of what this premises had in the way of producing - �191,000 in just this harvest, which was reaped three times a year, shows the enormous profits of this type of criminality. This is a high-level cannabis factory.”

And Judge Horton said he accepted Nguyen was not the leader of the operation but said he was better treated than a number of other gardeners used in this type of crime.

He said: “As a gardener he was not one that was being paid little money or scraps of food and being treated like a servant from the Middle Ages.”

He added that Nguyen would be sent back to Vietnam at the earliest opportunity by the Secretary of State.

The drugs and equipment were forfeited and destroyed.

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