Jail warning for teenager over £625,000 cannabis farm found in Selkirk

The old Ali Baba convenience store in Curror Street, Selkirk.
The old Ali Baba convenience store in Curror Street, Selkirk.

Cannabis with a street value of more than £600,000 was found growing in a disused shop in Selkirk three years after a previous drug farm, worth almost £150,000, was discovered at the same property, a court heard.

Police officers seized 652 cannabis plants at the former Ali Baba convenience store in Curror Street, just yards away from the town’s Knowepark Primary School, in January.

Albanian teenager Emiliano Boia had only been in the UK for six months prior to that raid, and he now faces a lengthy spell behind bars here after pleading guilty to dealing drugs.

An illegal Vietnamese immigrant, Hang Phan Vo, 23 at the time, was jailed for three years after a cannabis cultivation worth £150,000 was found in the same building in October 2015.

History repeated itself this year when another cannabis farm was found there, with the property’s electricity supply having been bypassed to assist in the cultivation of the class-B drug.

When police raided the property on January 15, Boia was the only person there, and he was subsequently arrested.

Selkirk Sheriff Court heard that it was accepted that the 19-year-old was probably “at the lower echelons of the operation”, however.

Boia, originally from the Albanian city of Elbasan but brought up in the Greek town of Nafplion, is understood to have arrived in Britain in July last year, visiting cities including London and Glasgow.

He is now on remand at Polmont young offenders’ institution, near Falkirk, and will be sentenced later this month.

Procurator fiscal Graham Fraser told the court Boia, in custody since January 16, has no previous convictions.

He said: “The location here is a two-storey derelict property in a residential street in Selkirk. Previously there were shop premises on the ground-floor and a four-bedroom flat upstairs.

“It has been uninhabited for some time.

“It is not the first time a cultivation of cannabis has been found there, but I stress that Mr Boia had no connection with the previous episode.

“On January 11 a search warrant was obtained, and on January 15 a search was carried out.

“A strong smell of cannabis was evident as soon as the premises were entered, and the accused was found in the bedroom area.

“The electricity supply had been bypassed, but again there is no suggestion the accused was involved in that.

“Once the place was made safe, a full search was carried out.”

Mr Fraser told the court the wholesale value of the cannabis seized would have been £219,000 but a “conservative estimate” of street deals of £10 per gramme would give a potential figure close to £625,000.

The fiscal added: “The accused was the only person found in the locus.

“The position is that the accused was part of an organised drug production and supply operation.

“While in no way do I want to minimise his position, it is quite possible he was at the lower echelons of that operation.

“It is clear from items recovered that he was eating, sleeping and brushing his teeth there.

“This was a professional set-up, but it was pointed out that there was no watering system in place and the crop had to be hand-watered.”

Defence lawyer Greg McDonnel accepted that background reports would be required and delayed his plea in mitigation until Boia’s sentencing hearing.

Boia pleaded guilty to a charge of being concerned in the supply of cannabis.

His not-guilty plea to producing the class-B drug was accepted by the crown.

Sheriff Peter Paterson told him: “This is a serious offence in which you have played a significant role.

“Because of your age and lack of previous convictions, I am obliged to obtain a criminal justice social work report.

“It is only fair to warn you that a custodial sentence is by far the most likely outcome.”