Jail for illegal immigrant tricked into looking after large Northampton cannabis farm to pay off trafficking debt

Lesi found at property with around 100 cannabis plants, estimated to yield £55,000-worth of drugs

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 3:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 3:22 pm

An illegal immigrant tricked into looking after a large cannabis farm in Northampton to pay off his debt to his traffickers was jailed at a court hearing today (Tuesday, August 24).

Fasli Lesi was found at a cannabis grow with around 100 plants, estimated to yield £55,000-worth of drugs, during a police raid in Weston Favell last month.

The 36-year-old was living a 'miserable existence' at the property having come from Greece to the UK for legitimate work which never happened, Northampton Crown Court heard.

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Fasli Lesi. Photo: Northamptonshire Police

Her Honour Judge Rebecca Crane imprisoned him for 16 months after he pleaded guilty to cultivating cannabis at Northampton Magistrates Court three days after he was arrested.

"You are an Albanian national that was living in Greece. You entered this country illegally on the promise of a job that did not materialise," she told him.

"You were seeking to provide for your family, in particular your son who is unwell.

"You were told to cultivate the cannabis to repay the £10,000 debt to the traffickers - you felt you were left with little no other option than to comply with that."

Jonathan Eley, prosecuting, said police discovered Lesi, the cannabis growing in three rooms and the loft, and around £320 in cash while executing a warrant at a property in Pinetrees on July 9.

Kyri Argyropoulos, defending, said his client had been left at the house by his superiors in the drugs gang and he was merely a 'foot soldier' with little knowledge of the operation.

"Mr Lesi had been left at the premises living in abject circumstances," he said.

"He did have a degree of freedom as he could go to the shop and buy himself some cigarettes but little more than that and he had little awareness of even where he was.

"He certainly fell short of what would be required under the Modern Slavery Act but nonetheless he was someone who was used and manipulated by others."

Mr Argyropoulos said Lesi had worked all his life in the meat trade before coming to the UK and was promised work in that field in this county.

But on arrival, the defendant, who can speak little English, was told that work was no longer available, which was untrue, and that had to pay off his debt to the traffickers instead.

"He has no previous convictions anywhere, in fact tells me that he's never even been stopped by the police in his car and I echo the impression given by the probation officer that his remorse in this case is entirely genuine," the lawyer added.

"He's a young man with a hitherto unblemished record, hard-working, who was hoodwinked into what can only be described as a miserable existence which he bitterly regrets and never intended to happen."

Judge Crane also ordered for the forfeiture and destruction of the cannabis, cash, equipment and a mobile phone found during the raid.