An Albanian cannabis farmer had his tooth knocked-out by one of the gangsters who forced him to work in the drugs factory, a court heard.
Mateo Dedej, 30, was caught red-handed behind the wheel of a car in London on June 22, 2020, selling cannabis to a buyer. He had 16 bags of cannabis in the car, including two ready to hand to his customer. Police also found cash in his pocket.
When he failed to turn up at court in October 2020 a warrant was issued for his arrest.
But it wasn’t until May this year that he came to police attention – when he was picked-up in a commercial-scale cannabis factory in Banbury.
It followed a warrant by Banbury officers on a house in Edmunds Road in the town on May 12. Pictures shared by Thames Valley Police at the time showed a room stuffed with plants and kitted out with a professional-style set up for growing the class B drug.
Appearing before Oxford Crown Court on Friday, Dedej, formerly of Edmunds Road, Banbury, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply cannabis, possession of cocaine and producing cannabis. He had no previous convictions
Peter du Feu, defending, said the police were so concerned about how Dedej came to be in the cannabis factory that they referred his case to the Home Office to consider whether he should be treated as a victim of modern-day slavery.
By his plea, the Albanian national, who had spent much of his life living in Italy before coming to the UK two years ago, accepted he was not a ‘slave’. But there were signs that he had come under significant pressure.
Mr du Feu said Dedej was missing a front tooth. It had been punched out by one of the gangsters for whom the defendant was working, it was suggested.
The barrister told the court that, even if his client were to get a suspended sentence of imprisonment, the Home Office would likely be interested in the cannabis farmer.
Judge Michael Gledhill QC adjourned sentence to July 15 and ordered a pre-sentence report.
Remanding the defendant in custody, the judge said: “I make no promises in respect of sentence. He will learn his face on July 15.”
Jonathan Stone appeared for the Crown Prosecution Service during the plea hearing at the St Aldates courthouse on Friday.
Possession with intent to supply a class B and producing the drug both carry a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment, although the punishment is usually far lower.
This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire’s court and crime reporter.
To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk
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