A CANNABIS gardener was found in a £116,000 Gorse Hill drug factory wearing only a pair of underpants, a court heard.

Albanian national Mirjan Smakaj was said to have been tricked into working at the cannabis factory -located in a terraced home in Omdurman Street - by fellow countrymen.

The 33-year-old, who came to the UK last February in the hope of sending cash home to his sick parents, had been pressured into working in the drugs trade. He had never been paid enough to send money home.

Prosecutor David Maunder told Swindon Crown Court yesterday that police were called by a neighbour to reports of a burglary in Omdurman Street in the early hours of July 28 last year.

Officers were on the scene within minutes and spoke to the driver of a Land Rover in the lane behind the house.

They found Smakaj outside the property in his underpants and talking into a mobile phone. He told the police officers: “I speak no English.”

Inside the property was a commercial-scale cannabis farm, with plants growing under lights and a harvested crop. There was a single bed and table in one room.

In total, police seized more than 16kg of cannabis. Depending upon the quantities in which it was sold, the crop could have been worth between £56,000 and £116,000.

Smakaj was taken to Gablecross police station. Mr Maunder said: “He gave a name and date of birth that didn’t match with any found on the immigration system.”

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Cannabis found inside the factory Picture: WILTSHIRE POLICE

Defending, Mark Ashley said his client had no previous convictions either in the UK or Albania.

A labourer by trade, he had come to the UK in February 2020 in the hope of making money to send home to his parents, who suffered a number of health complaints.

Mr Ashley said: “He came to this country out of a sense of loyalty, trying to assist his family, hoping he would be able to send money back.

“The reality of being an immigrant in this country struck pretty soon because although he did initially get other jobs, as soon as they realised he was from Albania they either didn’t pay him or paid him a much reduced [wage].

“As far as the offence itself is concerned he feels he was tricked into becoming a gardener. Some other Albanian men said they would have some work for him. He thought it would be a better deal.”

He had been under a “great deal of pressure” to continue working as a cannabis gardener. He received little or no pay and, since arriving in the UK, had been unable to send any money home to his parents.

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The electricity board was called to carry out remedial work to the electricity supply Picture: DAVE COX

Smakaj, of no fixed address, had denied a charge of cannabis production. However, having served six months on remand already and with delays in the process by which the authorities assess potential modern slavery victims threatening to further delay his case, Smakaj changed his plea on Tuesday.

Sentencing him to eight months’ imprisonment, Judge Jason Taylor QC said: “It was a professional set-up and remedial work after the event involved digging up the road to fix electrics that had been tampered with.”