Two Albanian men caught tending a large cannabis crop in a residential property in a County Durham town will both be deported after receiving prison sentences.

Police executed a search warrant at an address in Youens Crescent, Newton Aycliffe, on Tuesday June 20.

Durham Crown Court heard that officers forced entry via patio doors and located defendants Daut Visha and Ramaliu Flogert attempting to hide in the garage of the property.

The Northern Echo: Daut Visha, one of two Albanian men jailed for cannabis cultivation

On searching the house cannabis plants were found being grown to different levels of maturity in most rooms of the house, apart from living quarters at the rear of the property.

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Cainan Lonsdale, prosecuting, said a total of 227 growing plants were recovered by police, as well as 62 saplings, plus some previously harvested cannabis which was found in a zip-lock bag.

The officers found food and milk in the fridge, plus tobacco and other products in the living area.

Both men’s mobile phones were recovered and the court heard they were in possession of about £260 between them.

The key was found for the door, inferring the pair had the ability to leave, should they have chosen to do so, while a vehicle was parked at the front of the address.

Both 33-year-old Visha and his 28-year-old co-accused admitted cultivating cannabis on their first court appearance, the day after their arrest.

Appearing via video link from Durham Prison, where they have been on remand for the past month, the pair were assisted by an Albanian interpreter translating proceedings on their behalf.

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James Fenny, in mitigation, said neither has any previous criminal convictions to their name in this country.

Mr Fenny said Visha has been in the UK for almost two years having paid £5,000 to cross the English Channel in a dinghy to try to find work to send back to his wife and two children in his homeland.

He said the money paid to the trafficker was borrowed and he still has a large amount of debt.

“On arrival in this country he worked on construction sites in London until he was approached and told he was going to work in the North as his debt was still outstanding.

“He tells me he had been at the house for approximately four months and about a week, or so, after he got there, his co-accused, Mr Flogert, moved in and both were shown how to simply water the plants.

“In that four months he had not been paid any money, at all, and he had no idea how his debt was reducing by doing what he was doing."

Mr Fenny said Flogert, who is single, paid £22,000 to travel to the UK in the back of a van with 18 other people two years ago, money he was, “never going to pay off”.

As with his accomplice, he worked on construction sites, in his case in London and Sheffield, before being brought to the house in Newton Aycliffe almost four months before his arrest.

“Both men tell me on one occasion a number of men, Albanian and Italian, came to the house and they clearly harvested the cannabis.”

Mr Fenny said while both defendants had been free to leave the house if they wanted, they were scared to do so in case of reprisals.

Food was provided for them, by being placed in the boot of the car on the drive way, which they would go out to collect.

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Mr Fenny said the money the men were in possession of was what was left from their pay from working on the construction sites.

He added that as illegal immigrants both will be deported under an agreement between the respective governments of the UK and Albania.

Imposing 14-month prison sentences on both, Judge James Adkin said they would usually serve up to half the sentence in the UK and then face deportation, but, under the new bi-lateral agreement, they may be deported sooner to serve their sentence in an Albanian jail.