Four man sentenced after cannabis raid on Exhall industrial estate - The Coventry Observer

Four man sentenced after cannabis raid on Exhall industrial estate

Coventry Editorial 23rd Feb, 2024 Updated: 23rd Feb, 2024   0

FOUR men have been sentenced for the production of cannabis after a raid on an Exhall industrial estate.

At around 2.20pm on August 31, 2023, police visited the Bayton Road Industrial Estate following a tip-off from National Grid less than two hours earlier.

The tip-off was regarding an unusually high amount of electricity use for one of the units which had been blowing fuses at the local substation.

After no response from anyone inside, one officer found an entry through a small window on the side of the building, and he realised he was inside a large cannabis operation and radioed the other officers outside.

Investigations revealed an industrial-scale operation was in place, with an intricate ducting and venting system with filters and scrubbers installed.

Around 1,046 six-week-old cannabis plants worth around £889,623 were discovered, along with evidence of another 407 harvested plants.

Outside another officer heard loud banging on a rear fire exit door, and soon after two men burst through it trying to escape.

One man, 31-year-old Haxhi Malaj of no fixed abode, was caught.

He was later jailed for 28 months for being concerned in the production of cannabis.

Malaj said he arrived in the UK around 18 months before in the back of a lorry and had spent the last month watering the plants at the grow to pay off his £3,000 to 4,000 travel debt.

The second man, Donald Ponari, 22, of no fixed abode, jumped over a high metal security fence into the neighbouring compound, losing one of his shoes and ripping his trousers.

Ponari was caught after being spotted getting into a white BMW near the industrial estate.

He had been dropped off at another location where he was identified through his missing shoes and ripped trousers.

Ponari said he arrived in the UK by boat in November 2022, having paid between £3,000 and 5,000 in borrowed cash.

After a meeting in a pub, he claims to have been bundled into the back of a van and driven to the grow, where he worked as a gardener.

He said he did not leave the grow due to threats, but the owners did come by with food and water regularly.

The BMW with its driver was later found by a PCSO outside a supermarket on Coventry Road in Exhall, and the driver, also sporting ripped trousers, was arrested and identified as 28-year-old Adrian Lila, of Priory Place in Coventry.

Lila’s car was registered to an address on Cherry Close in Coventry, and a search revealed the house was bristled with security cameras, and all the windows were blacked out.

An open rear window was spotted, and as officers entered the back garden, they spotted someone attempting to flee by the back door, before running back into the address.

He was arrested and identified as Nimert Hoxhaj, 26 of Cherry Close in Coventry.

His house had also been converted into a cannabis grow with another 41 plants.

Lila claimed to know nothing about the grow at Bayton Road, saying he had been asked to deliver a jacket to a friend of a friend who was working there.

When he arrived, a man reportedly emerged from a bin, before getting into the car.

Lila claimed he asked him to leave, and then went to the supermarket where he was stopped by police.

He admitted to buying equipment for growing cannabis at Cherry Close but said he later decided against setting up a grow.

Hoxhaj said he arrived in the UK by lorry for the cost of £10,000 around 10 months before.

He had worked at the Cherry Close grow for two months and had not ever met Lila in person, but had only exchanged messages with him and on occasion seen him outside the house.

Fearing repercussions, Hoxhaj was also unwilling to talk about the real operators of the grow.

Hoxhaj, Lila, Ponari, and Malaj were in Warwick Crown Court on 15 January 2024 for sentencing.

Haxhi Malaj and Donald Ponari both received 28 months for being concerned in the production of cannabis at Bayton Road Industrial Estate.

For being concerned in the production of cannabis at Cherry Close, Nimert Hoxhaj was jailed for 16 months.

And Adrian Lila was jailed 16 months for being concerned in the production of cannabis at Cherry Close.


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