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Cannabis Grower Jailed After Raids

Herb Fellow

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A cannabis gardener was left to tend to an "extremely sophisticated" drugs farm after being lured into the job on the promise of earning up to £3,000 each month. Hua Zhang, a 22-year-old Chinese illegal immigrant, was sentenced to 18 months in jail yesterday after admitting his involvement in cultivating almost 750 cannabis plants at the factory, in an abandoned tile shop in Byfield.

Northampton Crown Court heard that the premises were leased to an unknown Oriental man, identified only as Kevin, who was wearing designer clothing and driving a Porsche.

Steven Evans, defending, told the court that Zhang was merely a "gardener" working for this man who had nothing to do with the operation of the factory, and despite being promised huge wages had not received a single penny from his employers. He added: "He is a simple man of the land from a rural area of China, who found himself out of depth in the UK."

Michael Waterfield, prosecuting, said Zhang was discovered sleeping in a camp bed inside the factory, in High Street, Byfield, when police raided the
abandoned shop on January 12.

The cannabis farm, capable of producing drugs worth more than £150,000, had only been up and running for about a month when it was discovered by police following a tip off from a member of the public.

Zhang pleaded guilty at a hearing at Northampton Magistrates' Court earlier this month, and at the sentencing yesterday Recorder Christopher Tickle recommended he be deported back to China as soon as he completes his time in jail.

He said: "This was a very professional outfit indeed, albeit a relatively new one. It was very prescient of the police to find it as quickly as they did, it was very slick policing.

"I accept you were a gardener charged with tending these plants and had nothing to do with the running of the operation. You are an illegal immigrant and classically vulnerable to these people who effectively left you to do their donkey work."

Source: Northhampton Chronicle & Echo
Copyright: 2008, Northhampton Chronicle & Echo
Contact: Staff
Website: Cannabis grower jailed after raids - Northampton Chronicle and Echo
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