29 Jun 2021

A tenant who rented a flat in Exeter tried to bribe estate agents who discovered he had converted it into a cannabis growing factory.

Anisi Hamollari, 25, paid a cash deposit of £6,438 to rent a three-bedroom house in the city.

But when neighbours noticed a strong herbal smell wafting out of the property estate agents checked what was going on.

They found Hamollari had trashed the interior and was using it to grow cannabis plants. He offered the estate agents £7,000 in hush money but fled when they turned down his offer.

Police found 97 cannabis plants with a potential value of £200,000.

Hamollari was jailed for 18 months when he appeared at Exeter Crown Court. The court was told he was in the country illegally and had been used by a trafficking gang to rent the property and water the plants.

Prosecutor Mr Richard Crabb said Hamollari used a false name and Italian identity documents when renting the property from an elderly couple on February 27 last year.

By June 16 neighbours had grown suspicious at the strong smell of cannabis coming from the property. The agents made appointments with the tenant to view the house but he cancelled twice, said Mr Crabb.

A tenant who rented a flat in Exeter tried to bribe estate agents who discovered he had converted it into a cannabis growing factory.

Anisi Hamollari, 25, paid a cash deposit of £6,438 to rent a three-bedroom house in the city.

But when neighbours noticed a strong herbal smell wafting out of the property estate agents checked what was going on.

They found Hamollari had trashed the interior and was using it to grow cannabis plants. He offered the estate agents £7,000 in hush money but fled when they turned down his offer.

Police found 97 cannabis plants with a potential value of £200,000.

Hamollari was jailed for 18 months when he appeared at Exeter Crown Court. The court was told he was in the country illegally and had been used by a trafficking gang to rent the property and water the plants.

Prosecutor Mr Richard Crabb said Hamollari used a false name and Italian identity documents when renting the property from an elderly couple on February 27 last year.

By June 16 neighbours had grown suspicious at the strong smell of cannabis coming from the property. The agents made appointments with the tenant to view the house but he cancelled twice, said Mr Crabb.

They did manage to inspect the property on June 19.

“It had been converted into a cannabis growing operation,” said the prosecutor.

“Police were called but by then the defendant had disappeared, ” added Mr Crabb. “But not before he offered the estate agent and his assistant £7,000 not to report the matter, which they declined.”

Police found plants at various stages of growth and with a potential yield of 21kg.

They tried to find the defendant, who they believed had travelled to Manchester. He turned up in the West Midlands on December 16 when police stop checked a car. He was still using his false Italian identity but officers found an Albanian document with his real name of Hamollari.

He had a passenger in the car and £8,200 in cash.

Hamollari told police he had been trafficked into the UK by organised criminals and forced to commit the offences.

Mr Crabb said the Crown did not accept that but did agree he had a limited role and was effectively used as a gardener.

“The property he rented was trashed,” said Mr Crabb. The damage was put at £15,000.

Mr Barry White, defending, said Hamollari had grown up in Albania and thought he was coming to the UK to work lawfully.

The court was told he will be deported back to his native country once the sentence is complete.

The defendant pleaded guilty to being concerned in the production of cannabis during a four month period between February and June last year. He also admitted knowingly possessing a fake Italian identity document with improper intent. He has no previous convictions.

Judge David Evans said: “Whilst subject to pressure from others while illegally in this country you handed over six months of advance rent to an estate agent in order to lease a privately rented house in Exeter. That was then turned into a commercial cannabis factory and your job was to tender the plants.”

He said when the operation was discovered the defendant’s first reaction was to try and bribe the estate agents and leave the city.

“Police found a sophisticated cannabis production operation with a crop in place which would be worth tens or thousands of pounds,” added the judge.

Devon and Cornwall Police seized £2,839 when the Hamollari was arrested. He must pay that as compensation for trashing the house.

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