Man jailed for growing half a million pounds worth of cannabis in empty hotel

Credit: Google Maps/South Wales Police

A man has been sentenced after he was found growing more than 600 cannabis plants in an empty hotel.

Flavio Picaku, 25, was found cultivating around half a million pounds worth of the illegal substance in the Commercial Hotel in Pontypridd.

The cannabis factory was discovered by police after neighbours alerted them to the smell.

Picaku was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court to 12 months in prison after pleading guilty to producing a controlled Class B drug.

Flavio Picaku was living in the hotel, which was being renovated, without the knowledge of the owners. Credit: South Wales Police

Police were called to the hotel on Cilfynydd Road at around 6:50pm on May 31 after a strong smell of cannabis was reported to be coming from the building.

Flavio Picaku was found living in the hotel, which was empty and in the process of being renovated, without the permission of the owners.

When police arrived, Prosecutor William Bebb said an officer saw Picaku near the front entrance and had to break through a glass panel withtheir foot to gain access.

The officer then ran up the stairs where they discovered Picaku in a large room containing cannabis plants and hydroponic equipment.

Hydroponic equipment was used to help the plants grow. Credit: South Wales Police

The Albanian national was arrested and 608 cannabis plants were found, filling seven rooms of the four-storey hotel.

The plants were seized and it was calculated there was between 16kg and 52kg of cannabis worth up to £638,400.

In his police interview, Picaku said he had found it difficult to find a job as he illegally emigrated to the country. He said he had been offered the opportunity of looking after the plants for money by a group of Albanian nationals.

He said the factory was already set up at the hotel when he arrived and his role was feeding and watering them whilst he lived there.

Police estimate the hotel was filled with cannabis worth between £201,700 and £638,400. Credit: South Wales Police
608 cannabis plants were discovered across seven rooms in the empty hotel. Credit: South Wales Police

Defence barrister, Susan Ferrier said her client had spent five and a half months in the UK before his arrest and left Albania because he was in danger there.

She described his role at the illegal substance factory as a "paid gardener" and said he was there for three months, receiving board and lodgings whilst sending any money he earned back to his family in Albania.

Sentencing, Judge Richard Twomlow said Picaku must have known that he was involved in a big "commercial operation" because of the number of plants and rooms being used.

Picaku pleaded guilty to producing a controlled Class B drug and was sentenced to 12 months in prison.