‘Armed debt collector’ blamed for Burnley cannabis farms

Burnley Crown Court.

Burnley Crown Court.

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An international welder involved with two cannabis farms producing drugs potentially worth more than £72,000 on the streets, claimed he was forced into it by a “massive” debt collector who put a gun to his head.

Michal Piec (31) told Burnley Crown Court he feared for his life after the man said he was going to grow the drug in Piec’s bedroom to pay off a debt.

If I refused him, he said he’s going to kill me

Michal Piec

Piec, who was born in Poland, said he had borrowed £25,000 towards a house, but had been struggling to find the £1,042 a month repayment.

He claimed the man set up the equipment at his home and another property, came every second day to tend to the plants and was a “cannabis expert.”

Piec said: “If I refused him, he said he’s going to kill me.”

The hearing was told police acting on intelligence found the two large cannabis farms - one at the defendant’s £127,000 three storey, three bedroomed house on Straight Mile Court, Burnley, and the other, for which he had the key, at an unoccupied terrace property in Granville Street in the town.

Piec has admitted two counts of producing cannabis, last July. He had no previous convictions.

A trial over the facts was held after the prosecution told the court it was a commercial operation for financial gain, he played a significant role and must have been cropping the plants when police arrived.

The defendant said he merely allowed his house to be used to grow the drugs and he moved equipment to Granville Street, under coercion. The case was adjourned until August 4th.

The court had been told police found 20 plants with an average yield of 151 grams each – nearly four times the normal yield – and 440 grams of already cropped plants at Straight Mile Court. The drugs could have been worth £34,600 on the streets.

At Granville Street, they discovered 43 plants, with an average yield of 40 grams each, which could have produced 1, 720 grams of cannabis worth £17,200 and 54 cuttings, which, if they reached maturity, could have produced 2,160 grams of cannabis, worth £21,600.

The defendant, who made no comment when questioned, will face a proceeds of crime hearing.

Giving evidence, Piec said he was an international welding instructor earning £44,000 and had arrived in the UK in 2007. His wife lost her job, she went back to Poland and he was running out of money.