Illegal immigrant caught with 7kg of cannabis in Kettering got involved with drug gang after building work dried up over lockdown
He borrowed £9,000 to get into the country and became involved with the OCG in order to pay back his family
An Albanian man who had been smuggled into the UK was found with seven kilograms of cannabis in the back of his van after being pulled over by police in Kettering.
Illegal immigrant Xhafer Gjojdeshi paid £9,000 to get into the country and was left owing his family thousands. He had been working on building sites when Coronavirus hit last year and work dried up.
So he joined an organised crime gang (OCG) and helped them dismantle cannabis factories and transport the spoils around Northamptonshire.
Gjojdeshi, 27, of St James Park Road, Northampton, pleaded guilty to one count of possession of cannabis with intent to supply when he appeared at Northampton Crown Court yesterday (Thursday, April 8).
The court was told that the defendant's Citroen van was followed by a marked police car in Fir Road, Kettering, at 6pm on September 21 last year. He turned into St Mary's Road, leapt out of his van without stopping it and ran off, chased by officers. His van rolled into another parked car, police eventually caught up with him and he was arrested.
In the back of his van was 7kg of cannabis in boxes labelled with the different strains of the drug.
Prosecuting, Andy Peet, said that Gjojdeshi had denied any involvement in police interview.
He said: "He said nothing other than a prepared statement asserting he'd been asked by a man he didn't know to drive to an address he didn't know in Northampton.
"He denied any knowledge of the contents of the boxes. He had presumed the boxes contained building materials.
"The entirety of that account was plainly a lie.
"When his phone was examined there were relevant video and image files found on it.
"They indicate he has knowledge of various cannabis grow locations, different cannabis strains.. and familiarity with the hierarchy of the OCG."
In mitigation, barrister Justin Rivett said that his client had no previous convictions and had borrowed £9,000 to get into the UK from his family, which he had to repay.
"He was working in the construction industry earning £1,500 per month.
"But from the beginning of lockdown he had very little or no income."
Mr Rivett said Gjojdeshi had used links within the Albanian community to become involved in the illegal cannabis industry and had played a role in dismantling factories and moving equipment around.
He said that on release his client has been offered a job in London with a wife's relative and that the probation service had assessed him as at a low risk of reoffending.
Sentencing Gjojdeshi, Recorder William Davis said he believed that the defendant had played a significant role in the OCG, adding: "It's clear from the messages on your phone that you were involved in supplying cannabis at a significant level.
"The messages show your knowledge of the different strains of cannabis and the structure of the group you were dealing with."
The court heard that the sentence range for this type of crime was between one and three years. Recorder Davis said that after trial the appropriate sentence would have been one of 21 months but that he had taken into account the fact the defendant had no previous convictions, the current situation in prisons with regard to Covid, and the fact that Gjojdeshi's wife was due to give birth to their first child in June. He also reduced his sentence by 25 per cent because he had pleaded guilty.
Gjojdeshi was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to serve half inside and half on licence in the community. As he has already served seven months, he will be released within days.
His barrister told the court that he will now be able to apply for leave to remain in the UK as he is married to an Greek EU national.
Confiscation proceedings were adjourned to May.