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 Drug gang leader jailed


​A drug gang leader who converted a town centre office block into a massive cannabis farm, is today starting a seven-year prison sentence.
Police uncovered approximately 400 cannabis plants during a raid on the five-storey Ridgemount House building in Bede Way, Peterlee, last April.
Samir Baghdadi had converted two-storeys of the landmark building for use as a drug farm, complete with sleeping quarters, food supplies and cooking utensils on one floor and 400 plants on another.
The building had been completely modified for the professional set up and the electricity was so dangerous it had to be completely turned off.
Police acted following reports from the public of double mattresses being moved into the vacant building and swooped to find Baghdadi with seven other accomplices on the premises.
Baghdadi denied knowing of the men’s existence in the building but all eight were arrested at the scene and were charged with being concerned in the production of a Class B drug.
And a Durham Crown Court yesterday, a jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict for the 53-year-old, of Dunstable Road, Markyate, Hertfordshire, after a six-day trial.
Although the plants were young, officers estimate that potential earnings from a mature crop could have run into several hundred thousand pounds.
Baghdadi’s “trusted lieutenant” Anastas Bani, 28, of Brentmead Place, London, was also sentenced to 42 months today after pleading guilty.
The pair join the other six men in prison who have already been sentenced.
They include:
·       Hekuran Xekoypan, 27, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to 33 months
·       Ledi Baxhija , 22, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to 30 months.
·       Ksandros Lapardharja, 24, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to ten months.
·       Kujtim Shabanaj, 44, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to 33 months.
·       Romeo Dinaku, 26, of Leslie Drive, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, was sentenced to 11 months.
·       Daniel Kapxhio, 31, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to 11 months.
More than 300 bags of compost seized by police during the raid were donated to Horden Community Garden and Peterlee Community Garden.
And approximately 30 bags of groceries which were found in the building were donated to the East Durham Trust foodbank to support the local community.
Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Lawrence, of Durham Constabulary, said: “We will not tolerate these kinds of large scale cannabis productions in County Durham and Darlington and will also work hard to shut down these types of operations that harm not just individuals but the wider community.
“Cannabis farms are a lucrative source of income for organised criminal gangs and we’re grateful to the public for their assistance in helping us to disrupt that supply.
“This was a massive team effort which included officers from a several teams such as CSI and Neighbourhood Policing, Response and CID teams who all worked hard throughout to make sure this group was brought to justice.”
Detective Sergeant Jenna Cook, who led the investigation, added: “This was a protracted and extensive investigation into the case of production of drugs.  
“Baghdadi has operated on a high-scale level and targeted Durham Constabulary’s area to commit organised drug crime.
“Peterlee CID officers have worked tirelessly to bring the case to justice and this sentence reflects how serious these offences are.
“They will not be tolerated in our area and we hope this sentence sends a clear warning to other groups who would look to bring misery to others through these types of crimes.” 
Anyone with information on the supply of drugs in County Durham and Darlington is asked to ring police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.