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Greek man who claimed he was forced to work in south Belfast cannabis factory jailed


Stock image: The judge said it was a "serious allegation".

Stock image: The judge said it was a "serious allegation".

Stock image: The judge said it was a "serious allegation".

A Greek man who claimed he was forced to work at a cannabis factory in south Belfast has been jailed for five months.

Klainti Pira said fear kept him at the house where thousands of pounds worth of electricity was illegally siphoned off.

A judge was told the 25-year-old plans to return to his native country once he serves the prison term.

Pira, of no fixed abode, admitted cultivating cannabis and dishonestly diverting electricity.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard a multi-storey cannabis factory was discovered in the Harleston Street area on August 23 this year.

Pira was arrested after police were alerted to the drug-growing operation.

He told officers that he had only arrived in Northern Ireland two weeks earlier.

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A Crown lawyer said: "At interview the defendant made the case that he was working in the dwelling against his will, having been placed there by two strangers.

"He said he returned to the address out of fear of these two men."

In total £2,341 worth of electricity was siphoned out of the property, the prosecutor disclosed.

A defence solicitor said Pira had worked at a car wash in England before travelling to Northern Ireland under the promise of achieving a better job.

"He's keen to put the matter behind him and aims to return to Greece as soon as possible," the lawyer added.

District Judge George Conner acknowledged Pira was at the lower end of the organisation responsible for the cannabis production.

Imposing a five-month sentence, he declined to order any compensation for the electricity used.

"Realistically, we have no hope of getting this money," Mr Conner said.

But he warned Pira: "If you remain in this jurisdiction you must not get caught up with drugs again, otherwise you will spend a very significant period in custody."

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