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First image of cannabis gardener who tried to escape police raid by hammering through roof

Police have released the first image of a cannabis farmer who was involved in a sophisticated operation worth up to £460,000.

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Edlir Bani has been jailed for 12 months for cannabis production.

Edlir Bani, aged 38 and of no fixed address, tried to flee by hammering at the roof of a unit at the Izons Industrial Estate in Oldbury Road after officers stormed the unit on June 27 following a tip-off.

Officers found more than 500 plants and two cannabis gardeners at the Oldbury unit, where they arrested Bani.

Sentencing the Albanian national at Wolverhampton Crown Court, Recorder Sarah McKeown said: "You came to the UK to find work and were told about a labouring job and offered accommodation. I've heard that you thought it was legal work.

"I accept that you were exploited and had no part in the setting up of the operation. You were not the major player. It is accepted by counsel that you played a lesser role. You have no previous convictions."

The court heard that it was a sophisticated operation with 422 plants discovered in various stages of growth in two rooms on the ground floor and the remainder in two further rooms on the mezzanine.

The building was kitted with extractor fans, hydroponic equipment and living quarters containing a fridge with food for the workers.

Bani had initially pleaded not guilty to one count of production of cannabis, but changed his plea to guilty ahead of trial, on the basis that he was a minor player.

Prosecuting barrister Mr Mike Tanney said: "The police officers forced their way in and the defendant attempted to to escape by putting a hammer through the roof, but there was an officer in position anticipating that move. He was arrested."

The recorder told the father-of-one that due to him being an illegal immigrant, he must be imprisoned. He must serve at least half of the sentence before being released on licence subject to any other action, such as deportation.

Mitigating barrister Mr Haroon Khattak said Bani had only arrived in the country a few months prior to being arrested after arriving to find work.

Bani, no fixed abode, was jailed for 12 months for cannabis production.

No evidence was offered by the prosecution in relation to a charge of abstracting electricity.

The court heard that the case of another man Elson Baxhia, aged 30, will be heard at a later date.

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