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Judge dismisses claims from Albanians they were forced to work in huge cannabis farm hit by police

A JUDGE dismissed claims by two Albanian men that they were coerced into working at a huge cannabis factory set up in redundant offices.

Fabio Maloku and Zylfi Hata, (below) both of no fixed address, claimed they were threatened by masked men to tend plants at the illegal factory in Ramsgate, Kent.

A Kent Police spokesman said: "The claims by 35-year-old Hata and 22-year-old Maloku (above) that they were recruited under pressure or had been threatened by masked men to work at the cultivation were not accepted by the judge and they were jailed for two years and one month each."

"They transformed a large commercial to grow drugs with Shkelzen Vata, 21, (below) who had admitted responsibility at the earliest opportunity, received a 22-month custodial sentence."

On the morning of Thursday June 1 2023, Kent Police carried out a warrant at the disused property in School Lane, where it was found that the address had been fully converted into a dedicated cannabis cultivation site.

As police entered the building, three men were found trying to escape through the back door but were stopped by officers.

All three were arrested and taken into custody.

An examination of the building originally used as three floors of offices, a basement and a loft, found that it had entirely been converted for the purpose of growing and preparing cannabis, other than four rooms which were instead used as makeshift living quarters.

In excess of 1,000 plants were found in different stages of growth, from young growing plants, to mature plants which had been cut to dry out. Rooms were filled with fans, heaters, lights and other equipment needed for the cultivation. A total of 291 lamps were found at the property which were being powered by an electricity supply which had been tampered with and bypassed.

Following an investigation by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, the three offenders were charged with being concerned in the production of cannabis.

Detectives found that the plants would have been capable of producing cannabis to the value of between £105,000 to £540,000.

At Canterbury Crown Court they admitted the charges and were sentenced on Thursday 7 September.

Investigating officer DC Mark Simcox said: "A cultivation site such as the one found in Ramsgate would have produced a lot of Class B drugs, which would be used to fuel further criminality.

‘By working to find and dismantle such cultivations, we disrupt organised crime, leave them out of pocket and send a clear message that anyone found working at cultivations risks going to prison."

Albanian crime gangs have virtually taken over the UK homegrown cannabis trade from Vietnamese outfits since about 2010.

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