A VIETNAMESE teenager who was running a £140,000 cannabis farm in a rented house behind the County Ground in Swindon has been jailed for a year.
Illegal immigrant Thang Vuong was living in the kitchen of the terraced house as he tended the hundreds of plants being grown for drugs.
Once the 19-year-old has done his time in prison he is to be sent home after being trafficked to this county at the end of last year.
Colin Meeke, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court how police launched a dawn raid on a house in Shrivenham Road on Thursday, February 27.
“It is a three-bed mid-terrace property. Inside, four of the rooms had been converted into a cannabis-growing enterprise,” he said.
“The defendant was living in the kitchen. He was there clearly as the farmer, the gardener as it were to the 278 plants.
“Someone had bypassed the electricity meter. The Crown accepts it was done before this defendant was there.”
Vuong told the police a couple of months earlier he had paid the equivalent of £5,700 to come to the UK to find work.
He had been flown to France where his passport and other papers were taken from him before he was loaded in a lorry and brought to England.
“He got off in Swindon where he met another Vietnamese man who offered him a job looking after the plants,” Mr Meeke said.
“He was given the kitchen as his bedroom, living room, frankly the whole extent of his world. He was set off to garden. He knew really what he was doing was illegal.
“He said from time to time someone would come to speak to him – a European man. He was given some food, some money and that was it.”
Vuong pleaded guilty to producing cannabis and entering the UK without leave. He denied a charge of abstracting £13,000 of electricity and prosecutors said they would not seek a trial.
Andrew Hobson, defending, said his client, who had been trafficked into the country, just wanted to go home.
He said when his family put up the money for him to come to the UK he never thought he would be working in a cannabis factory.
Passing sentence Recorder Maria Lamb said: “Yours is a tragic case and it is becoming increasingly familiar to these courts. It is quite clear that you are at the bottom level of what was a substantial commercial operation.
“You have, I accept, been exploited by others for their own means and you worked at their direction. You derived no benefit from what you have done.”
Jailing him, she added: “I hope that before very long you will be able to go back home and be reunited with your family, if that is your wish.”