Albanian cannabis farmer found in Rose Hill was paying off £11k debt

Albanian cannabis farmer found in Rose Hill was paying off £11k debt

An Albanian cannabis farmer caught in an Oxford semi surrounded by hundreds of plants was paying off a £11,000 debt, a court heard.

Samed Halilaj, 30, was placed in the semi-detached property, responsible for tending cannabis plants in sweltering temperatures in order to pay off the sizeable debt.

His advocate, Lucy Ffrench, told Oxford Crown Court that the ‘difficult’ conditions in which her client found himself were detailed in the statement of one of the police officers called to the house.

“He says that neither bathroom nor kitchen in the property appeared to be [operating] in the normal way,” Ms Ffrench said.

“Both were dirty and the cooker did not appear to have been used for a long time.

“Mr Halilaj confirms that it was an uncomfortable place to live.

“It was very hot, obviously. He did have a bed but very little else.

“There was no hot water and he was living on fast food only.”

When police raided the semi last month, they discovered an industrial style set-up with a total of 203 plants growing in the house.

Sentencing him to six months’ imprisonment, Recorder Thomas Moran told Halilaj: “This is an all too familiar story, now, to the courts.

“You had incurred a debt – you say of around £11,000 – to an Albanian or Albanians.

“They know where your family live in Albania, they say.

“You were threatened to work in the house in order to pay off the debt. By your plea you accept those threats fell short of affording you a defence of duress.

“Your freedom to go out of the house was limited and you were told this arrangement would go on for at most four months.”

Halilaj, of Nowell Road, Rose Hill, pleaded guilty at the magistrates’ court to production of a class B drug. He had no previous convictions.

The court heard that several aborted attempts were made to have the case heard at the lower court following his arrest and remand into custody.

There a total of four appearances at the magistrates’ court ‘before Mr Halilaj and an Albanian interpreter were in the building at the same time’, Ms Ffrench said.

She told the court that her client had found his time in prison on remand very difficult. “He says he’s only been outside in the fresh air twice in those two-and-a-half weeks.”

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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

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward

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