A landlord who allowed cannabis farms to operate in 17 of his 72 properties as part of a multi-million-pound drugs operation has been jailed for 11 years.
Jeremy Southgate, 63, installed ghost tenants in the properties, which were then taken over for drugs cultivation, reports The Yorkshire Post.
He recruited several Albanian men, including Florjan Kasaj and ‘area managers’, cousins Dardan and Ervis Mrishaj, who looked after the properties.
A fake student lettings agency in Hull - Anderson Estates - which rarely opened to the public, acted as a front and was run by Kasaj, with false adverts in the windows.
Southgate, an outwardly respectable businessman who lived in the village of Welton, near Brough in East Yorkshire, bought properties at auction for low value cash sums and made about £11 million per year.
However, Hull Crown Court heard that it was difficult to prove how much of his income came from crime, as he did not keep a rent book and was “eccentric” in his approach to accounting.
Southgate even gained government grants to install insulation around each premises which helped evade detection of the cannabis factories.
During the sentencing hearing, defence counsel Alex Menary said his client had merely “allowed his properties to be used” for the drugs operation, but Judge Bury disagreed.
He said Southgate had put himself in a “difficult position” by failing to keep accurate records of income from properties rented to legitimate tenants but argued that he was not rewarded only by rent from the drugs wholesalers, as if that was the case, he would have let them to tenants in the normal manner.
Kasaj was jailed for seven years, Ervis Mrishaj for five and a half years and his cousin Dardan for three years.
Picture credit: Humberside Police