Page last updated at 06:03 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 07:03 UK

Landlord found cannabis factory

Cannabis plant
Production of cannabis is punishable by 14 years in prison

A landlord has described how he discovered that the home he rented out had been turned into a cannabis "farm".

John Leaver told BBC Radio Wales' Eye on Wales he called Gwent Police after the locks were changed on the house.

Officers uncovered 80,000 of cannabis plants, and equipment worth up to 10,000 in the Caerleon property.

Gwent Police said 53 properties in the force area were identified as cultivating or manufacturing cannabis in 2007, a four-fold increase on 2006.

The number of raids is said to be increasing quickly because criminal gangs which supply cannabis make more money and run less risk by growing it in the UK instead of smuggling in cannabis resin.

Earlier this year Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced that cannabis would become a class B drug again.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is tackling cannabis growth

She said there had been a "massive growth in the commercial cultivation of cannabis in the UK" and reclassification would help to shut down such farms.

Mr Leaver, from Newport, had advertised for tenants last autumn at the three-bedroomed end-of-terrace house.

He was approached by men he thought were well-to-do Chinese restaurant owners, who viewed the house, asked to move in straight away, and paid the rent promptly in cash.

'Terrible mess'

But on an impulse trip to check the garden, he noticed the door locks had been changed, the curtains were shut tight and there was "a terrible mess".

He returned the next day to look for evidence after he was warned by a police detective friend that the house was probably being used as a cannabis farm.

He became angry when he saw the dirty bathroom, with the bath full of muddy water, fertiliser on the floor, and rags and watering cans, and managed to get in.

Cannabis plant
The police did laugh when I said I had found because I was going to check the garden, because I really found a garden
John Leaver, landlord
"I opened the door - and there standing right in front of me is a young Chinese guy.

"I think it was a shock to him more than to me, but definitely a shock to both of us."

Mr Leaver had met the "gardener", the man charged with looking after the cannabis crop, who are often illegal immigrants and at the mercy of the gangs behind the cannabis trade.

Mr Leaver called police and by the time they arrived, the two men had disappeared.

Mr Leaver said: "The police did laugh when I said [what] I had found because I was going to check the garden, because I really found a garden.

Hydroponic system

"They found 130 cannabis plants valued at around 80,000. They reckon the equipment in there was worth probably between 7,000 and 10,000."

A hydroponic system kept the plants watered, and each room had large pipes installed and going into the loft to keep them ventilated.

There were also 54 heating and lighting units which had been rerouted past the meter box directly into the mains to avoid paying for electricity.

"The power company estimate that their electricity charges would have been upwards of 400 a week," said Mr Leaver.

No-one has been arrested, but Gwent Police said investigations were continuing.

The experience has been costly for Mr Leaver, who had to redecorate the house before installing new tenants, but he said the cannabis farmers "must have lost a great deal of money".

"They lost their crop, they lost all their capital investment and they lost time," he said. "This one, they didn't get away with it."

Eye on Wales is on BBC Radio Wales at 1830 BST on Monday.

video and audio news
Police officers raid a cannabis factory.

Two cannabis factories are found
15 May 08 |  South West Wales

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