A COCKTAIL bar worker turned Worcester cannabis ‘gardener’ claimed he was forced into it by Albanian drugs bosses who made threats against his family over a debt.

Klodjan Lici looked after 57 plants at the terraced house where he was then living in Astwood Road, only agreeing to the job because threats had been made to hurt his family back home in Albania.

A single crop could have made the dealers as much as £42,000 if sold on the streets of Worcester but Lici would have made little profit from the enterprise, a court heard.

The 24-year-old, who has spent the last four months in jail on remand, had already admitted production of cannabis when he appeared at Worcester Crown Court on Friday but was spared a further prison term. He had been living in London before moving to Worcester to look after the plants.

According to a drugs expert a single crop would yield 1.4kg to 4.2kg of the class B drug with a wholesale value of £4,900 to £29,000 but a street value of between £14,000 and £42,000.

Worcester police executed a warrant at the address at 9.30am on July 23 this year, finding the door locked from the inside. Lici did not answer when police knocked but police had a key to the two-storey, three-bed terrace in a quiet residential area of the city.

Police discovered 30 non-flowering plants in a rear first floor room, 20 more in a front first floor room, three more in the ground floor and four in the attic.

Martin Liddiard, prosecuting, said officers also found fans, ventilation and a watering system, the enterprise powered by abstracted electricity which bypassed the meter.

When arrested at the house, Lici told police his job had been to water the plants every couple of days and adjust the lighting so the plants did not burn.

“He said he did not harvest the plants as he was only there to look after them” said Mr Liddiard.

Lici told officers he owed £16,000 to someone in Albania. Mr Liddiard said: “He needed to pay his debts. If he didn’t his family back home would be harmed.”

If he looked after the plants for four to five months his debt would be cleared, Lici told officers.

Niall Skinner, defending, said: “He made what he describes as a stupid decision.”

The barrister said his client is ‘not unintelligent’ and ‘he’s sorry for what he’s done’. Lici has been in custody since his arrest (four months) which he asked the judge to take into account. He had previously worked in cocktail bars and restaurants and at house renovation and gardening.

“He was given an opportunity, which he took reluctantly, to pay that money back. There were suggestions that various threats had been made to his family” said Mr Skinner.

His younger brother, mother and father still live in Albania. He said the profits of the cannabis grow would have gone elsewhere rather than into the defendant's pockets.

Judge Nicolas Cartwright said: “You were the person doing what is called the gardening. I except it was not going to be you making all the money from this enterprise. I accept this was not your enterprise.”

The judge sentenced him to 18 months in prison suspended for two years and placed him on a six month electronically monitored curfew daily between 9pm and 7am.

The curfew will be in force at an address in High Road, London. Lici must also complete 140 hours of unpaid wok.

Judge Cartwright ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the drugs. A victim surcharge will be calculated administratively. No order was made for costs.