Cuong – who is now 41 – slipped into the United Kingdom illegally, hidden under a lorry, before going on to grow cannabis in homes, hotels and even a stable.

His dangerous journey from the poor, rough Vietnamese port town of Haiphong to Britain’s illegal cannabis farms was driven by big dreams.

“All I ever wanted was to make money … whether it was legal or illegal,” Cuong, who is now back in Vietnam, told AFP.

It was criminal career steered by the Vietnamese gangsters behind the UK’s huge marijuana trade, which researchers value at around 2.6bn pounds (US$3.2bn) a year.

Cuong claims he went to the UK willingly, looking for ready cash in a country with some of the highest prices for cannabis anywhere in Europe.

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