A man who fled his native Albania to avoid a “blood feud” was found in Hull working as a “glorified gardener”.
Hithi, was handed a six-month sentence by Judge Ahmed Nadim but was told he will be deported back to his home country of Albania after he pleaded guilty to the production of cannabis, attempting to produce cannabis and obstructing electricity.
Hull Crown Court heard Hithi had fled Albania in June last year “to avoid a blood feud” and offered to pay £14,500 to get to the UK.
Hithi was taken to London, and then Hull, where he worked at various construction sites to pay off his debt to his traffickers, before being taken to a property in Philip Larkin close, off Beverley Road, where he was told to “water the plants”.
Prosecuting, Paul Nicholson said: “On April 1 this year, police went there and there was a strange smell of cannabis coming from it and all of the windows had been covered with a foil fabric.
“They noticed the smell intensified when they opened the letterbox and they could hear the low hum of fans in the background.
“A man then presented himself at a downstairs window but ignored the request to come to the door. The officers forced the door open and found the defendant in the rear, ground floor room. It was clear he didn’t speak English but he had identification with his name.”
As well as Hithi, officers also found at the property 52 cannabis plants and 196 cuttings of cannabis.
Mr Nicholson told the court: “In February he was contacted and told he had to pay his debt back and he was given a key in the post and came to the address. When he arrived, there were plants already growing. He would get calls from the people who had put him there telling him to tend to the plants. He was told not to touch the lighting, just water the plants.
“He had been told to plant the seedlings and in March he did. In return for doing these things, he would be paid £1,500 a month. £1,000 would be paid off his debt and £500 would be for him to keep. He was asked by police if he was under duress and he said no and he said he was not fearful of the repercussions.”
Mitigating, Michael Forrest told the court that Hithi left his wife and children in June last year and he had not seen them since. He has no previous convictions in both the UK and Albania.
He said: “He has given his full cooperation to the police and the probation service. He has demonstrated openness and honesty.
“He was the plant waterer and glorified gardener and he was not the resident electrician. He didn’t establish the connection, but he didn’t have any control or ownership of the equipment used.
“The Home Office will schedule deportation.”
By way of an Albanian interpreter, Judge Nadim told Hithi: “In order to enter the UK you paid £14,500 to traffickers. Whilst here you worked for a living but then there came a stage where you were without work and in these circumstances you came to this city to operate a cannabis farm.
“You were exploited in this way and you were recruited and then found by the police.”
Hithi was told he would serve a six-month prison sentence. The Home Office will schedule a deportation date.