From empty houses and lofts to disused factories – those looking to make a hefty profit from growing cannabis on a large scale use all kinds of properties to run their farms.
Those behind the commercial cultivation of the class B drug are usually organised criminal gangs often with links to international people trafficking.
The funds made from the trade are often used to pay for other kinds of criminal activity.
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However, the people who often appear before the courts when these farms are found aren’t the bosses – but instead the gardeners, growers and cultivators.
Most often these are people who are new to the country, who have either travelled over illegally or been asylum seekers.
Easily manipulated and vulnerable, they are desperate to make a quick buck, but usually the first to fall when the police come knocking.
Here, the Manchester Evening News has looked back on the biggest cannabis farms found in Greater Manchester, and the people hauled before the courts for their part in the trade.
The immigrant who was told he’d be killed if he didn’t work at cannabis farm in Longsight
Oretsis Cobo, 29, had been living in the farm which had been set up in a terraced house, for about six weeks before police discovered it.
He later told officers he’d been taken to the house on Eston Street in a van after being sent a ‘threatening letter’.
He was told to water and feed the cannabis plants, acting as a gardener, and warned if he failed to comply ‘he would be killed ‘, Manchester Crown Court heard.
Police were originally called to the house after reports of disorder. They found Cobo lying on the floor, and having a ‘medical episode’, on February 19.
Officers found more than 300 plants, which could have yielded between 13 and 14 kilos of cannabis.
There were grows in several rooms and the loft.
After being arrested, Albanian national Cobo told police he had not set up the farm, and was only involved in feeding and watering the plants.
He said he’d not been paid for his work, other than being brought food and money for a phone top up, and being allowed to live there rent free.
Cobo said he’d been threatened by an individual who had told him to stay at the house, otherwise he’d be killed. He said he was too scared to call the police.
He was jailed for 15 months in September, after admitting producing cannabis. His defence lawyer said Cobo awaits deportation after serving his sentence.
The desperate man who was ‘manipulated’ into growing a cannabis farm
Alfred Pirra owed traffickers £25,000 for getting him into Britain – so he cultivated cannabis in an attempt to stop his smugglers threatening his family.
He had been working at a car wash since arriving in the country to pay off his debt but had to stop due to the Covid pandemic.
Without an income to pay the traffickers, the 26-year-old’s family began to receive threats for money, and they were forced to raise £5,000 to stop the aggression.
Pirra was then ‘manipulated’ into tending for cannabis plants at a property on Mount Pleasant, Darcy Lever, Bolton, which police raided at 8.15am on February 27 .
He was detained by police at the property, where 23 cannabis plants were found in the front bedroom and 22 cannabis plants were found in the rear bedroom.
Officers also found fans and heat lamps used in the production process in the two bedrooms, along with a water container and a hose in the bathroom, and foil in the attic – which suggested cannabis had previously been cultivated there.
The approximate street value of the drugs was £25,000.
Pirra, of Bolton Road, Westhoughton, pleaded guilty to production of a Class B drug and was handed a six month prison sentence in August.
However, as he entered the UK illegally, Pirra will now be referred to the Home Office where his immigration status will be considered.
Pirra will be subject to a period of supervision from the Home Office and will be required to abide by conditions if he is released.
The ‘million pound’ factory found in Cheetham Hill
Police found more than 100 kilos of cannabis when they raided a former mill in Cheetham Hill.
A gun and ammunition was also discovered.
Over a year, the ‘highly organised’ set up could produce a million pound’s worth of cannabis, Manchester Crown Court heard.
Four Lithuanian men who were found at the mill at Park Place have all been jailed.
The men said they came to the UK in search of legitimate work.
One said they were taken to the cannabis farm from the airport.
A revolver and ammunition was found in a sofa in the mill, though the gun could only fire rubber bullets and blank cartridges.
The ammunition recovered included ‘traumatic ball cartridges’ and blank cartridges.
The cannabis farm included lights, a large industrial fan and ventilation.
Police believed a large crop had recently been harvested each crop could be worth between £247,000 and £330,000.
Ramunas Lesauskas, 48, and Mindaugas Salys, 30, were jailed for two years, while Vincas Margevicius, 38, and Arturas Salkauskas, 54, were sentenced to 14 months.
Lesauskas and Salys both pleaded guilty to production of cannabis, possession of a prohibited weapon and possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate.
Salkauskas and Margevicius pleaded guilty to production of cannabis.
The asylum seeker offered £2,000 a month to tend to a huge cannabis farm in Didsbury
Ledjo Basha, 25 was a ‘gardener’ at the farm, which was installed in a semi-detached house on Palatine Road, Didsbury.
Police found cannabis with a potential value of £100,000 – and a ‘sophisticated’ set up.
There were 275 cannabis plants, found in five different locations within the building.
Officers also discovered 77 lights, at least ten fans and 76 transformers, prosecutor Saul Brody told Manchester Crown Court.
The electricity had also been bypassed.
Police forced entry into the property on May 28, and arrested Basha on suspicion of producing cannabis.
In a police interview, Basha said he had been at the house for less than two months.
Basha had been offered £2,000 a month for the role, but never received any money, he said.
Mr Brody said the ‘significant’ quantities of cannabis were being grown for ‘commercial’ use.
Basha, of Palatine Road, pleaded guilty to producing a class B drug and was jailed for seven months.
The former restaurant boss in charge of trafficking illegal immigrants to work on cannabis farms
A restaurant boss played a key role in a ‘barbaric’ failed plot to traffic illegal immigrants into the UK to work in cannabis farms.
Tuan Do, 55, was also involved in the running of cannabis farms which produced tens of thousands of pounds worth of the drug.
He has now been jailed for 11 years.
Do, of Modbury Walk, Cheetham Hill, was found guilty after trial of conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration, conspiracy to produce a class B drug and conspiracy to supply a class B drug.
He pleaded guilty to another count of conspiracy to produce a class B drug.
To read the full shocking story, click here .
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