CANNABIS growers who were found tending to a £1.3 million drugs farm had arrived in the country only months before in order to seek work.

Oliver Weetch, prosecuting at Chelmsford Crown Court, outlined how police became aware of the smell of cannabis emanating from a disused building in Dovercourt High Street.

In June last year, officers investigated and found a huge cannabis factory.

Taulant Blloku, 27, and Florenc Prrenjasi, 19, were inside, along with 669 plants at various stages of growth.

The court heard both men had been tasked with tending to the plants and were living at the drugs factory in squalid conditions.

Mr Weetch said: “In effect there were three rooms that were dedicated to the growing of cannabis.

“Within those three rooms were a total of 669 plants.

“There was a sophisticated and powerful lighting system that had been set up and employed to cultivate the cannabis.”

After their arrest, Blloku and Prrenjasi admitted a charge of producing a controlled drug of Class B.

The court heard Blloku had arrived in the country illegally from Albania some four months before his arrest.

In police interview he claimed threats had been made against his family and he had been threatened with a pistol, forced to work against his will.

This account was described as “nonsense” by the prosecution, who uncovered pictures on his phone proving he had been free to leave the address at will.

Another picture on his phone showed a large amount of cash.

The court heard Prrenjasi had arrived in the UK from Greece legally to seek legitimate work in order to pay for his mother’s medical treatment.

But after he was promised between £1,000 and £11,000, he agreed to tend to the plants.

After three months of “gardening” work, he received no money.

Judge Timothy Walker said the pair had been motivated by financial advantage, adding: “This was plainly a professional and organised grow, capable of producing large quantity of cannabis.”

Prrenjasi, of Woodbine Terrace, Durham, received a prison sentence of two years and two months , while Blloku, of Berkeley Avenue, Greenford, was jailed for three years and two months.