A DATE has been set for a crime proceeds hearing against the lead figure behind a large-scale cannabis grow in a disused office block.

Samir Baghdadi, now 54, was given a seven-year prison sentence at Durham Crown Court in January last year, after being found guilty of production of a class B drug.

During his six-day trial, Baghdadi, of Markyate, St Alban’s in Hertfordshire, boasted to a jury that he was a multi-millionaire property investor and so did not need to get involved in such an enterprise.

But the prosecution said he bankrolled the setting up of the sophisticated cannabis farm in Ridgemount House, Peterlee, which formerly housed the town’s drug and alcohol counselling service.

The court heard he used his property business as a cover for the operation, as well as taking advantage of the first lockdown restrictions at the onset of the Covid crisis to help avoid detection as up to £60,000 worth of growing equipment was installed.

His seven co-accused each received jail sentences, of between ten and 42 months, totalling 14 years and two months, to reflect their respective roles.

Passing sentence, Judge Ray Singh said there was an abundance of evidence that Baghdadi, a father-of-three, legally living in the UK for more than 22 years, played a “leading” role in the operation.

Jailing him, Judge Singh told Baghdadi his boast of being a multi-millionaire may feature in proceeds of crime proceedings.

At a short hearing at the court last week a start date for an anticipated two-day contested hearing was set for July 27.

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