A MAN who played a “significant role” in the production of cannabis at the largest factory ever discovered in Dorset has been jailed.

Kastriot Aliaj, 31, an Albanian national, was found guilty of the production of cannabis and possession of criminal property when he was found with just over £3,000 relating to the factory.

The operation at Sandford Lane Industrial Estate in Wareham had a potential crop yield of between £2.3million and £7.1million.

Bournemouth Echo: The cannabis factory in Wareham

Police’s attention was drawn to the site after a member of the public, who believed a burglary was taking place, reported concerns about a suspicious vehicle coming to and from the units in December 2019.

Arber Aliaj and Leonard Bruci were sentenced at a previous hearing, however, Kastriot Aliaj was sentenced separately as it was believed he had a more significant role.

Bournemouth Echo:

Prosecuting, Michael Forster said: “Kastriot Aliaj had a significant role because he had an operational function within the chain.

“[Bruci and Arber Aliaj] were in the factory tending the plants, this defendant was driving up and down from Birmingham in possession of a significant quantity of cash.

“He was simply supplying the factory as quartermaster.”

Mr Forster explained count two was money laundering when, when he was found in possession of £3158.17.

Bournemouth Echo: Police at the industrial estate with a hire van, which was hired by the force to remove plants from the unitsPolice at the industrial estate with a hire van, which was hired by the force to remove plants from the units

Mitigating, Nicholas Leadbeater said: “As far as role is concerned, I concede that there is an element of significant role, Mr Forster identifies operational management within a chain.

“And of course, the defendant admitted to supplying food to those at the factory.

“I would respectfully submit that there are elements of lesser role in that he performed a limited function under direction.

“I would submit there is no evidence that he had any influence on those above him in the chain. I would submit he had very little, if any, awareness or understanding of the operation.”

Bournemouth Echo: Kastriot Aliaj

Mr Leadbeater asked for any sentence for the money laundering to be concurrent with the sentence for the production of cannabis, as the counts were related.

Sentencing judge Recorder Gordon Bebb QC said: “The fact is that this was a cannabis cultivation operation, capable of producing cannabis on an industrial scale and for commercial use.

“In your case I judge you played a significant role unlike your co-accused.

“You played an important part in the supply of food and plants for the operation, you were an important link between the factory and Birmingham.

“You were a trusted member of the operation, as demonstrated by the fact you had over £3,000 in your possession.

“I have no doubt that you had a full understanding of the scale of the operation.”

Aliaj was also sentenced to five years imprisonment for the production of cannabis and to one year in prison for the possession of criminal property, the £3,000, to run concurrently, and all the drugs, mobile phones and drug paraphernalia were to be destroyed or disposed of.