A Vietnamese man who came to the UK by boat desperate for work lives in “sweltering” conditions in a Cardiff house surrounded by hundreds of cannabis plants. Huang Lai, 39, a father of two, moved to China and then Britain after work in his home country ended during the pandemic.

The Cardiff Crown Court heard how Lai arrived in the UK unable to speak English and unable to find decent employment, and fell victim to criminals far above him on the drug trafficking chain, earning “significant amounts of money” through the Lai’s role as a “gardener”. Tom Roberts, the prosecutor, told the court how South Wales Police officers carried out a warrant under the Misuse of Drugs Act on a run-down property in Rawden Place, Riverside, on 27 January.

On arrival, officers found 238 plants with a total return of up to £104,000. They also took £1,330 in cash. Roberts described ownership as a “relatively complex operation”.

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During an interview after his arrest, Lai told officers that he had left Vietnam in search of work and, just days after arriving in the UK, he was assigned to work in a household tending to plants. He told them that he had been living in the house for six months.

William Babb of Lai said: “The language barrier probably speaks to your position within the company. Also the living conditions: I lived among hundreds of hemp plants. No previous convictions. There is clearly a troubling context to this case, as he has not been in contact with his family for a year after leaving Vietnam.”

The court heard how the defendant lived in warm conditions among the plants on the property.

Some of the plants are owned by Rawden Place, Riverside

Babb told the court that Lai came to the UK to support his wife and children, aged 10 and 7. “He made the mistake of trusting the wrong people,” Babb said, adding that he peacefully discussed what happened with officers through an interpreter after his arrest.

Judge Matthew Porter-Bryant told Lai: “You were involved in the production of a significant amount of cannabis that could have generated significant sums of money. I am convinced that you were not the instigator of this operation, but you played, as Mr. Babb, the role of the gardener.

“I saw pictures of the apartment you lived in. They are terrible. You are a person of good character, you have no previous convictions, and you have regretted it to some extent.”

Lai, with no fixed address, was sentenced to six months in prison for producing marijuana and possessing criminal assets, half of which he will serve under license.

Source: Wales Online