Man behind cannabis farm near Ludlow jailed after organised crime network revealed

The owner of a building near Ludlow which was turned into a cannabis farm has been jailed for running a network of properties used by organised gangs.

The cannabis farm near Ludlow
The cannabis farm near Ludlow

Feng Xu, 43, rented out 446 properties used by organised criminal groups involved in prostitution, cannabis farming and illegal immigration, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.

Among these buildings was a barn in Downton on the Rock, near Ludlow, where a police raid in May uncovered more than 500 cannabis plants along with bags full of ready-to-sell cannabis buds and paraphernalia estimated at several hundred thousand pounds.

Today Xu was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison after pleading guilty to 22 different offences, including fraud and money laundering, at Birmingham Crown Court in October.

Feng Xu, 43, lived in Birmingham

He used a variety of fake identities and aliases supported by false documents he'd made himself - such as pay slips, utility bills and bank statements - to rent out the buildings.

Once leases were signed the properties would be handed over to criminal groups who would then set them up as brothels, cannabis farms or to house illegal immigrants.

Xu operated this network for at least three and a half years during which more than £4 million in rent was paid out, some from his own accounts, some paid direct by the crime groups, according to the NCA.

The cannabis farm found near Ludlow

Numerous properties were raided by police forces across the country before the NCA picked up the investigation last year when the connection between them became clear.

Xu was arrested at his home in Holliday Street, Birmingham, in May.

He was also linked to a stash of 31 different false or fraudulent Chinese or Portuguese passports, and £94,000 cash found in a secure storage unit.

He will face deportation after serving his sentence, having entered the UK in 1996 as a student and then lived illegally in Britain since 2000.

Feng Xu being arrested

Commenting after the case, NCA branch commander Martin Grace said: "We believe that this case goes way beyond one man.

"In taking Xu out we will have caused significant disruption to a number of different organised crime groups involved in prostitution, people smuggling and drug production.

"While he wasn't necessarily involved in those types of offences himself, he was an important enabler for those who were.

"Put simply, these crime groups could not do what they do without his services.

"This investigation has been supported by dozens of police forces across the UK and Immigration Enforcement, and we are hugely grateful for that assistance."

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