Four men arrested when police raided a large-scale cannabis farm in a disused village pub and club have all been jailed at Durham Crown Court.

The quartet of Albanian nationals were all present when police disrupted the cannabis cultivation operation across all rooms at the former HMS Victory Club, in School Street, Easington Colliery, at 7.40am on Wednesday, March 15.

Sam Faulks, prosecuting, said it was described as a “significant” set up, which would have cost, “a substantial amount” to equip.

The officers involved in the raid found a total of 1,663 plants in different stages of growth, equating to about 46.5kg of cannabis leaves.

The Northern Echo: Police inspect scale of cannabis farm operation in disused Easington Colliery club

Mr Faulks said two bags of female cannabis plant material was found in a store room behind the bar.

One was entirely filled and the other was three-quarters full, which amounted to a further five kilos.

Read more: 17 arrested in Easington Colliery, Durham, after cannabis farm found

Depending on the yields and mode of sale, it was estimated the potential value in terms of sale of the entire haul was between £87,500 and £433,500.

The four occupants of the building, Denis Boduri, Ergys Dosti, Algert Myrto and Afrim Myrto were all arrested.

The Northern Echo: Four men found tending cannabis farm at disused Easington club were all arrested in police raid, in

Mr Faulks said it emerged they were all Albanians and each one appeared to have shared the workload and played a similar role in the operation.

Dosti, 24, and 42-year-old Afrim Myrto admitted being concerned in the cultivation of cannabis on the day of their scheduled trial earlier this month, while Boduri, 23, and 34-year-old Algert Myrto put in guilty pleas the previous day.

None were said to have any convictions or cautions in this country.

“There was nothing to suggest anyone of them was in command,” said Mr Faulks.

“On the face of it, they appear to be gardeners.”

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Defence barristers for the quartet told the court that for each of the defendants it was their first experience of custody, which they have found difficult with little knowledge of English in more than five months since their arrests.

James Doyle, for Boduri and Afrim Myrto, said: “However sophisticated the operation was it’s unlikely any of them would have received a princely sum for their work.”

Liam O’Brien, for Dosti, said his client, one of the youngest of the group, came to the UK, “naively believing he could make a good life for himself, despite being in the country illegally.

“The reality soon disabused him of that notion.

“He found himself in London and then Cardiff struggling to make ends meet for about two years before he reluctantly and unlawfully accepting work in this cannabis farm.

“For about a week he lived in conditions of absolute squalor and has since spent more than five months in Durham Prison.

“To say he has learned a salutary lesson is an understatement.

“His experience is the best advert possible to dissuade anyone coming to this country illegally.

“He deeply regrets his decision to work in this cannabis farm.

“He hopes to now continue to live lawfully for the rest of his days.”

Judge Jo Kidd imposed 16-month sentences on all but Dosti, who received a 15-month sentence, as he had less time to consider his pleas due to a referral to the Home Office that he had been subject of potential modern-day slavery, which proved unsuccessful.

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The judge said all would serve up to half in custody before being eligible for release on licence.

But she added: “I anticipate, on your release you will be subject of immigration detention, pending deportation back to Albania.”

Judge Kidd also ordered forfeiture and destruction of all the seized plants and paraphernalia.