Albanian drugs gang jailed after running cannabis farm from Rhyl high street shop

The six men will spend a combined total of ten years behind bars.

A drugs gang in Rhyl have been jailed after running a cannabis farm from an empty high stree shop.

The six men from Albania, were sentenced at Mold Crown Court after being described as running a "sophisticated" operation and producing hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of the Class B drug.

They will spend a combined total of ten years behind bars after cultivating over £300,000 of cannabis in a vacant shop in Market Street in the Denbighshire town.

The shop was raided by police on 22 July this year where they found a "makeshift sleeping area" where Zhejson Cirh, Franci Harizi, Izmir Dema, Klodian Dema, Amariedo Lala and Robert Rexha were discovered carrying out the work.

The court heard how the gang ran a "sophisticated" cannabis farm in the middle of Rhyl.

The court heard that the Albanian nationals, who all pleaded guilty to the production of cannabis, were "gardeners" and had taken over two floors of the property, to farm the drug.

Simon Maidstone, prosecuting said that there were three zones on the premises, with the largest area having had 300 plants growing under 60 lights.

A second area had just under 100 plants that had already been harvested. On the original upper floor of the shop, the men had been tending to another 150 plants.

Based on the average plant, the men would have been producing about 33 kilograms of the drug, which would be worth £336,000.

The officer described the operation as "relatively sophisticated" and said it seemed to have been set up to create a continuous cycle of cannabis to go out into Rhyl and the surrounding areas.

Franci Harizi, of Beetham Tower in Birmingham, told police he had been brought to Rhyl days before his arrest. The 26-year-old claimed to have been sent to work under the orders of someone to whom he owed money.

He told police that the night he was arrested was his first at the drug farm. Mr Maidstone said this was found to be untrue, as Harizi had made reservations at a local Travelodge six months earlier in late January.

Phone data also revealed that he made made fleeting visits to Rhyl on at least three more occasions between April and June in 2022.

The court heard that Klodian Dema, 38, had messages on his phone that suggested he was in considerable debt and his construction job didn't pay enough, said Mr Maidstone.

He was also found to be getting instructions from a third party about how to run things at the cannabis farm.

The men were said to be producing about 33 kilograms of the drug, which would be worth £336,000.

Harizi was jailed for two years and eight months. Owen Edwards representing him, said his client came to Britain to make legitimate money but borrowed cash and got involved in criminality to pay this debt off.

Klodian Dema was jailed for two years and Amariedo Lala was jailed for one year and four months. Simon Kileen, representing them said his clients were promised "milk and honey" in the UK when it came to providing for their families in Albania.

But, while getting to the UK, they incurred debts they were not able to pay off, which led to their involvement in the plot.

Simon Rogers told the judge that Rexha, who speaks no English, has a wife of almost 20 years, two teenage daughters and a young son in Albania, and he came to the UK to provide money for them.

The 45-year-old, who was jailed for a year and four months, claimed to have been at the farm just a day before the raid.

Izmir Dema and Zhejson Cirh were each jailed for a year and four months. Their barristers told the judge that their best mitigation for a lesser sentence came from their early guilty pleas.

Having sentenced the men to a total of 10 years between them, Judge Niclas Parry said, "Premises in the centre of Rhyl, a town blighted by drug criminality, had been taken over. Electricity was illegally obstructed and this operation was so big that it needed six gardeners - with talk of rotating gardeners.

"Save for Harizi, the roles that you played were exactly that - gardeners - there to maintain the operation. You have to understand that operations like this would come to a stop without people like you. You were all quite prepared to be a part of this, having made a decision."