Albanian men trafficked to UK forced to work on cannabis farm in Blackpool ‘hovel’

Lancs Live

The pair have been locked up for their role in looking after plants worth up to £52,000

Two Albanian men were forced to tend to a cannabis farm inside a Blackpool “hovel” by traffickers who threatened to kill them if they didn’t comply.

Arbri Dervishi and Francesk Markaj, both 26, were found in a derelict flat on Central Drive when police attended earlier this year and arrested over their involvement in the drugs farm. Preston Crown Court this week heard the men had been smuggled into the country in a lorry and then forced to work on the farm to pay a debt to an organised crime group who arranged for them to ride on a lorry from Belgium.

Daniel Harman, representing Markaj, said the level of exploitation was such that if the men had died in the unsafe flat, the gang “wouldn’t care, they’d move onto the next place”. Dervishi hopes to remain in the country now he has been set free of the traffickers and wants to apply to stay legally.

The court heard that police attended the flat on Central Drive on March 23 and were let in by Dervishi. An officer noticed a wire running from an electric meter to the flat and arrested Dervishi on suspicion of abstracting electricity. A second officer went upstairs and found Markaj in a bedroom as well as cannabis plants spread across various rooms. In total, 105 plants were recovered with a potential yield of 4.2kg which had a wholesale value of between £12k-£32k and a street value of £52k.

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