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2022-08-19 20:26:22 By : Ms. Kelly Xiao

Police used an angle grinder to gain access to the factory and found hundreds of cannabis plants

Four men have been jailed following a large-scale police operation in Southampton that dismantled a cannabis factory worth an estimated £3.6million a year.

Agron Elezaj, 27, of Jack Clow Road, London, Amarildo Sulaj, 23, of Stanhope Road, Doncaster, and Rexhino Koci, 26, and Damiano Saraci, 30, both of no fixed address, were sentenced at Winchester Crown Court yesterday (11 July).

Sulaj and Koci pleaded guilty to playing a significant role and Saraci and Elezaj pleaded to a lesser role in the production of a class B drug – cannabis.

Sulaj was sentenced to four years and four months in prison and Koci received a four-year custodial sentence, while Saraci and Elezaj were both given 20 months in prison.

Last year, officers identified that an organised crime group was running a large cannabis factory out of an industrial unit in Pitt Road, Southampton, and that it could be linked to modern day slavery.

An operation was set up and a warrant was granted by the courts to enter and search the property.

Units flooded the industrial estate and surrounding the building suspected to be the factory.

Dog units and drones were used to help secure the perimeter of the site and ensure no-one was able to escape.

Koci, Elezaj and Saraci were arrested inside the unit but Sulaj attempted to escape by running across the roof before falling through a neighbouring building and sustaining injuries to his ankles.

Inside the unit, makeshift ventilation pipes and electrical wiring were running through a labyrinth of different rooms and lamps and fans were being used to grow dozens of rows of cannabis plants across two floors in various stages of harvest.

A living area and bathroom were also found in a squalid condition, which were used by the four men.

Over the course of several days, officers dismantled the factory once the electrical supply was safely turned off.

The electricity being abstracted to power the factory amounted to £625.40 per day.

In total, 1048 cannabis plants were seized and examined by experts.

It is estimated at full maturity, this crop could have a street value of up to £900,000 and the factory was capable of producing four crops a year – bringing in an estimated annual turnover of £3,600,000.

DI Stuart Barton, the senior investigating officer for the operation, said: “This factory is one of the largest we have seen in Southampton and by dismantling it, we have removed a large cog in the drug production machine in Hampshire and caused massive disruption to the organised crime gang that was running it.

“Cannabis production on this scale is so much more than just ‘a bit of drugs’.

"It brings organised crime, serious violence, firearms and exploitation of children and vulnerable adults into our communities.

“We are only able to carry out successful operations like this with the right information.

"This is why it is so important you tell us about drug dealing or production in your neighbourhood – even a seemingly insignificant piece of information could be the last piece in the puzzle.”