Drug gang's 'gardener' jailed for 600 days
A former soldier, who admitted being the "gardener" for two major cannabis cultivations in the Borders, has been jailed for 20 months.
Drugs with a street value of £73,000 were found in Hawick after police searched two properties in the town.
Aleksei Golovan, 38, who served with the Russian army but now has Estonian citizenship, pleaded guilty at Selkirk Sheriff Court to charges of producing cannabis and being concerned in the supply of the class B drug.
The offences happened between May and June last year at houses in Duke Street and Princes Street in Hawick.
Procurator fiscal Fraser Matheson said police found drug-producing equipment in both properties with plants to the value of £29,000 which if sold in the street could yield a maximum value of £73,000.
A total of £3,500 in cash was also recovered.
Mr Matheson said: "The accused's role was that of a gardener.
“He received instructions from someone whose identity was probably unknown to water the plants.
“But he is still a critical link in the supply chain."
The court was told that Golovan had been working on the construction site at the St James Centre in Edinburgh when he suddenly lost his job due to the coronavirus pandemic and was left with no money.
He explained that he was offered work, but had no indication at the time of what was involved and he was picked up and taken to an address in Hawick.
The court heard that Golovan's co-accused Jevgeni Strelgov, 37, had been granted bail during the legal proceedings and had not been heard of since.
Defence lawyer Mark Harrower said his client and former co-accused had been based at the Duke Street address where their task was to water the plants and tidy up rubbish.
They were given instructions on how to feed the plants by way of a spreadsheet which was found pinned on the back of one of the doors and seized by police.
Mr Harrower said: “Every week someone would come to the flat and deliver more nutrients, and when that happened they were told to leave and go to the shop for an hour or so.”
He admitted: "He accepts he got involved with his eyes wide open so he could send money home.
“He had no idea how much the drugs were worth.
“He was promised some money and a ticket home once the restrictions were lifted and he got neither.”
Sheriff Peter Paterson accepted Golovan was a first offender and was a hard worker who had come over to the UK to provide for his family.
But he added that he had become part of a "professional criminal conspiracy."
Sheriff Paterson said the case was linked to serious organised crime.
He jailed Golovan for 600 days back-dated to June 16 when he was first remanded in custody in connection with the matter.
A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing in connection with the case is due to be heard on March 22.