A man with a Bachelor of Arts degree in his native Albania was found tending an illicit cannabis crop at a rented residential property in a County Durham village.

It was only due to a routine property check by an estate agent, at the address in Bowburn, that Kleon Zeneli’s activities came to light.

Durham Crown Court heard that the agent visited the house in Clarence Street on December 14, last year.

Chris Morrison, prosecuting, said the defendant was found in the attic, where cannabis was being cultivated, with other plants found in two upstairs bedrooms, where there was also various growing equipment.

The agent called the police who attended and arrested the defendant.

The Northern Echo: Kleon Zeneli jailed for 14 months for the cultivation of 50 cannabis plants at a rented property in

A total of 50 plants were recovered, all between 1ft and 2ft in height, and it was considered the grow had been in operation for some time.

Mr Morrison said the electricity system was checked and it was found the meter had been interfered with, “clearly to power the operation.”

Zeneli made no answer to police questions over why he was there and what he was doing.

Mr Morrison said it was considered to have been, “an efficiently run operation” over which the defendant was, “clearly in control.”

The defendant, aged 24, was said to be an Albanian national with, “no right to be in this country.”

Mr Morrison said nothing was known of his antecedents, but he has no previous convictions in this country.

The Northern Echo:

Zeneli pleaded guilty to both producing a class B drug and abstracting electricity when he appeared before magistrates on January 19.

The case of the defendant, who has been on remand in Durham Prison since his arrest, was sent to the crown court to be sentenced.

Kate Barnes, in mitigation, said despite completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in marketing management in Albania, the defendant was unable to find work in his native country.

She said he, therefore, decided to come to the UK illegally three months before his arrest.

But he was left having to repay a debt to those who trafficked him to the UK.

To repay the debt he was placed at the address and tasked to water and garden the cannabis crop.

Miss Barnes said the defendant was acting under the direction of others and made no financial gain, other than meeting his debt to his traffickers.

Recorder Mark McKone said the defendant was making a financial gain from the operation by repaying his passage to the “criminals who arranged for him to come to the UK”.

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He said it was to his credit he had achieved a Bachelor of Arts degree in his home country, but he would, in all likelihood, face deportation back there midway through his prison sentence.

Recorder McKone said had the case gone to trial it would have been a sentence of 21 months, but, with a deduction of one-third as credit for his guilty plea, it gave an ultimate jail term of 14 months.

But the Recorder said the issue of the defendant’s immigration status was not a matter over which the court has any control.