TWO illegal immigrants who looked after a cannabis farm so they could get food and shelter have been jailed — but are hoping to return to their home country on release.
Viet (40) and Duc Nguyen (49), of no fixed abode, were recruited to look after 1,200 plants at a property on Moorgate Street, Rotherham.
The Vietnamese duo were jailed at Sheffield Crown Court for seven months but are likely to be released soon and return to their home in the Far East.
Mr Daniel Penman, prosecuting, said police had raided the property at 1pm on April 20.
He said he could not say how many plants there were nor how much they were worth, however, police said on social media at the time of the raid that about 1,200 plants had been discovered.
As officers searched the property, the Nguyens had escaped and were later identified on CCTV running away.
Both men were arrested and utility firm Northern Power had to make the property safe because the electricity had been bypassed.
Mr Penman said there was no evidence to suggest either defendant would have made significant amounts of money from the drugs.
“Whilst they may not have been victims of modern slavery, it would appear that their involvement had originated from threats made to them,” he said.
Viet Nguyen admitted production of cannabis at last Friday’s (13) hearing while Duc Nguyen admitted the offence at an earlier hearing.
Viet’s barrister, Mr Tim Gaubert, said his client wanted to get back to Vietnam as soon as possible.
He said Viet had become involved in order to get food and a roof over his head and he had no influence over those recruiting him.
Duc’s barrister, Mr Richard Sheldon, said his client had been exploited and had also been hungry and homeless.
“He was used because of these two features and then landed himself in prison,” he said.
“He, too, wants to go home as soon as possible.”
Viet and Duc, who are not related, were jailed for seven months.
Recorder Andrew Smith said the Nguyens had been involved in a large-scale commercial production of cannabis.
“Somebody was making large amounts of money out of those cannabis plants and I accept it was neither of you two,” he said.
“But it’s a serious offence — a supply of cannabis such as this makes a lot of money for criminal enterprises which is then invested in other criminal enterprises.
“The cannabis is sold on to people who use it and causes endless medical difficulties for some of those people.”
Mr Smith said the Nguyens had come to the UK illegally to look for work but more legitimate work had not been available.
“I hope things work out for you on your release from custody and I hope your move to Vietnam works out quickly,” he said.