Cannabis trio sent to jail

PUBLISHED: 06:30 28 January 2016


A security company boss from Brixington has been jailed after he was caught running a massive cannabis distribution business.

Altin Laska sold drugs to dealers all around Britain from industrial scale growing operations in Exeter, Newton Abbot, Dunkeswell and Minehead.

Exeter Crown Court heard how the Exmouth-based businessmen moved into large-scale drug dealing after the failure of his security company in Exeter.

He used another business, which dealt in bankrupt stock, as a cover for the drugs enterprise - which would have generated around £250,000 at wholesale prices if all the growing plants had reached maturity.

Laska recruited two Romanians who worked at his cousin’s car wash business in St Thomas, Exeter, as couriers and police dismantled the plot after they were intercepted carrying 6.7 kilograms of cannabis to Scotland.

Police seized hundreds of plants at grow sites at Hurst Avenue, Exeter; Oaklands, Newton Abbot, Dunkeswell and Alcombe Road, Minehead.

The cannabis farms were capable of producing 51 kilograms up to four times a year, Exeter Crown Court was told.

Albanian-born Laska, aged 27, of Broadpark Road, Exmouth, and Romanian-born couriers Nicolae Pasc, aged 25, and Mircae Rusu, aged 24, of Hurst Avenue, Exeter, all admitted conspiracy to supply cannabis.

Laska was jailed for five years and the others were jailed for a year each by Judge Graham Cottle.

Judge Cottle told them: “This case involves an organised crime group which was capable of producing industrial quantities of cannabis. A young Vietnamese gardener was bivouacked at an address in Exeter and used to look after the plants.

“He was 15, had no grasp of English, and ought not to have been in this country at all.

“Laska’s role in the operation was significantly up the chain from Pasc and Rusu. It is clear he played a very important part in the supply chain.

“At the time of his arrest, 51.25 kilograms of cannabis were in place at the four production sites. Pasc and Rusu were arrested when they were acting as trusted couriers, carrying 6.7 kilograms.

“It seems to me that Laska falls fairly and squarely into a leading role so far as this conspiracy is concerned.”

Mr Joss Ticehurst, prosecuting, said surveillance and mobile phone tracking evidence showed Laska making repeated visits to the grow sites.

He said a 15-year-old Vietnamese boy, who had been trafficked into Britain illegally, was found minding one of the sites and Laska claimed they were all being run by a Vietnamese gang.

The other two men were intercepted on the M5 near West Bromwich in June with 6.7 kilograms of the crop - worth £34,000 - £70,000 - which they were due to deliver to Scotland.

Mr Ticehurst said: “Laska was quite clearly connected directly to the production sites and was central to organising the distribution. The others acted under his instructions.

“He was organising the supply of cannabis on a commercial scale and that involved close and direct links to the original source. He had an influence on others in the supply chain.

“He would have had expectations of substantial financial gain because this case involved kilograms of cannabis.”

Mr Stephen Mejzner, defending Laska, said his client had been a successful businessman running a security firm in Exeter until a dispute with a client led to an expensive court case.

He said Laska also ran a removals business and traded in bankrupt stock, while his wife ran a cafe, which has had to close since his arrest last August.

He said there were innocent explanations for going to the areas where the cannabis was grown. He had gone to auctions at Dunkeswell, festivals at Minehead, parties at the Exeter house, and had acted as chauffeur for a Vietnamese contact when visiting Newton Abbot.

Miss Kate Chidgey, defending Pasc and Rusu, said they were working at a car wash when Laska offered them £800 to take the drugs to Scotland. She said they have both spent seven months in custody since their arrest, which has been very hard for them because neither speak English.

Rusu hopes to return to Romania as soon as possible.

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