AN illegal immigrant who incurred a £12,000 debt entering the UK took up an illicit job as a cannabis farm gardener in order to repay what he owed.

Kreshnik Shpata, 27, was found at a “sophisticated and established” cannabis farm in a fourbedroom house on The Willows estate in Colchester.

Ipswich Crown Court heard the house had been given over completely to the growth of cannabis, with expensive equipment, including lighting units, extractor fans and heating systems.

A large number of plants, with an estimated street value of between £47,600 and £140,000, were uncovered.

During the raid, in January this year, officers discovered 86 plants in the lounge, while 90 seedlings were found upstairs.

The court heard thousands of pounds would have been spent on the operation.

Shpata made full admissions in police interview, telling officers he had entered the UK illegally one year earlier.

Charles Durrant, mitigating, said his client had paid £12,000 to enter the country from Albania and had been told he would earn £3,000 for acting as a gardener.

He said: “He never received any money and his family in Albania were threatened.

“He understood it was wrong to accept the job and offers his sincerest apologies, but felt he had to do it to protect his family.”