Illegal immigrant tended million-pound cannabis crop
A Vietnamese illegal immigrant who tended to a cannabis crop worth £1.1 million was treated as a boy by a court – despite claiming he was 20 when he entered Britain hidden in a lorry two years ago.
The defendant insisted at Caernarfon crown court - where he was found guilty by a jury of being concerned in the production of cannabis - that he was 16 and gave a different name to that of his adult identity. He had claimed he was a modern 'slave' after 1,590 'pot' plants were discovered at a converted former garage at Newtown in mid Wales.
But prosecutor Oliver King alleged the accused was an 'economic migrant'.
Sentencing him to eight months detention and training, Judge Huw Rees said new inquiries should have been made to establish the defendant’s age.
“If there are reasons to believe he’s under 18 I must presume he’s under 18,” the judge remarked.
The judge said he was sentenced on the basis he was 16 'whatever my own doubts about that proposition'. Deportation was a matter for the Home Secretary.
A second illegal immigrant, Bang Vo, who also gave different dates of birth, one suggesting he was 43, pleaded guilty. He was jailed for eight months.
Defence counsel Simon Parry said he had been in Britain since 2009 and had been involved with the cannabis factory for five months. He received accommodation and food in return. Vo wanted to stay in Britain.
Judge Rees told the pair: "You were gardeners. I accept you wouldn’t have benefitted financially from this enterprise. You were not the prime-movers behind this lucrative commercial undertaking.”
The judge said 'cowards' used 'less fortunate people' like them to cultivate the drug.
'I was kidnapped'
Det Con Fraser Hughes of Dyfed Powys police said the accused 'boy' told him he came to Britain in the back of a lorry to pay off a £50,000 debt to loan sharks and his life would be in danger if he refused. He was brought to Newtown blindfolded in a van, the defendant insisted.
In evidence, he told his barrister he was now 16 and his parents had died when he was five. He had lived with his grandmother who became ill and she borrowed money for her treatment.
When he was sent to Britain it was said he owed £50,000.
“I was kidnapped and sent away,” he maintained.
“I was kidnapped and put on a plane and in a lorry container.”
He’d arrived in Britain from Calais. Hoang told the jury the different date of birth then was because an interpreter gave an 'incorrect translation'.
He went to Birmingham but he was kidnapped again at knifepoint, while begging, and pulled in a small van.
He claimed he couldn’t get out of the mid Wales building.
“I was sent in to work to pay off the debt,” he declared.
But the prosecutor told the jury: “He’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes.”
The 'sophisticated' cannabis factory was raided by police in January.
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