Two men who acted as "gardeners" for a large cannabis farm in an "abandoned" restaurant, while the job was advertised on TikTok. Artan Haka, 38, and Juljan Sulaj, 25, were found to be living in squalid conditions attached to the derelict restaurant in Bradshawgate.
Bolton Crown Court heard how police discovered the two Albanian nationals were looking after hundreds of cannabis plants spread across more than 10 rooms. Prosecutor Kevin Lister said: "A large water leak was discovered in a derelict restaurant which was traced to an adjacent property."
According to the investigator, there were about 760 plants in total, which amounted to about two kilograms of cannabis each. He told the court how police then entered the attic of the building where they found two beds and a kitchen. Mr Lister said: "The property was in a very bad state, the defendants were found in the basement, hiding."
Both men were subsequently arrested and Haka admitted to police that he had entered the UK illegally in 2020 and moved between London, Birmingham and then Bolton.
Mr Lister said: "Then, in need of money, he started this job, in the loosest sense, which he saw advertised on TikTok." Haka claimed that his role had been to water the plants and that he had not left the building for two months. Sulaj, the youngest, made no comment when interviewed by police.
Judge Abilgail Hudson accepted that Haka and Sulaj were likely to have been under the control of others when working in the cannabis garden. But addressing the pair, she reminded them of the size of the farms they were tending.
She also noted that because of their illegal status, they would not be able to serve probation orders. Judge Hudson sentenced Haka to 14 months in prison and Sulaj to 12 months. She told them that this would not affect their immigration proceedings, which would "take their course".