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Huge cannabis factory worth almost half a million pounds found in Cardiff suburb

Huge cannabis factory worth almost half a million pounds found in Cardiff suburb

A gardener has been found working at a cannabis factory in Cardiff with more than 600 plants worth almost half a million pounds. It is the second time the defendant has been involved in cannabis production.

Markelian Koxhaj, 27, was discovered working at the cannabis factory in Sandringham Road, Roath, on March 14 after police smelled cannabis coming from the property. Officers forced entry to the property via the back garden and found the defendant standing on the other side of the door.

A sentencing hearing at Cardiff Crown Court on Tuesday heard Koxhaj told police he was a gardener and had only been at the house for a week. Cannabis was being grown in seven rooms, with 674 plants found in total in what was described by prosecutor Amelia Pike as a “professional set-up”. Electricity was also being illegally extracted.

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The total income from the plants was estimated at a high level of between £148,282 and £444,840. Koxhaj was arrested and interviewed but replied “no comment”. He claimed his job was to water the plants and was in debt to a gang of £30,000 who had helped him transport them from his home in Albania to the UK in the back of a lorry.

Koxhaj, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to production of cannabis and abstraction of electricity without a licence. The court heard he had a previous conviction for production of cannabis from 2023, for which he received 227 days in prison.

A probation report revealed the defendant came to the UK in 2020 and his immigration status was illegal. He was released from prison in February 2023 but was recalled the same day, before being released on 21 April 2023. He was recalled after failing to engage with his licence but remained at large until his arrest in March this year. He claimed he was approached by the same gang who told him he needed to work to pay off his £30,000 debt, and he felt pressured to take up gardening duties.

The court heard that the decision was made not to deport Koxhaj after the end of his prison sentence for the first cannabis production offence due to fears for his welfare, but as a result of his second conviction he is likely to be deported upon his release from prison. In mitigation, Hannah Friendman said her client grew up in rural Albania and came to the UK in search of a “better life”, but now wanted to return home to work legally and pay off his debt.

Sentencing, Judge Paul Hobson said there was “no realistic alternative to an immediate custodial term”. He sentenced the defendant to a total of 20 months in prison.

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