The killing of a 23-year-old would-be cannabis burglar by three drug gang members is a continuing sign of the pernicious effects of UK weed laws, experts told VICE World News.
The beating to death of Tomasz Waga in Cardiff by three members of a crime gang from Albania, is the latest deadly example of ongoing cannabis farm wars in the UK exposed by VICE World News in 2021. The case also reveals the wholesale expansion into Wales of Albanian gangs who have already become major players in the illegal cannabis growing industry – alongside the cocaine trade – in England.
In January 2021 Waga, a cannabis farm burglar with a previous conviction for breaking into weed factories, travelled three hours in a car from London with accomplice Carl Davies and two other men after a tip-off about a three-storey illegal grow house packed with over 500 plants worth £120,000 in Newport Road, Cardiff.
But their attempt to steal the plants was thwarted because the grow was being guarded by Hysland Aliaj, one of the gang’s “gardeners” who was asleep in one of the rooms.
He raised the alarm when he was woken by the break-in, escaped and alerted other members of the gang including Josif Nushi and Mihal Dhana who rushed to the property to defend their crop as the burglars were wrapping the plants up in a bed sheet.
Waga, a young father living in east London and originally from Poland, was stamped, kicked and beaten to death with a baseball bat and a brick by three of the men who put his body in a car before dumping it in a nearby street. Davies was left badly injured but alive.
After the assault, killers Nushi, Dhana and Aliaj fled to Albania before being extradited back to the UK after an international manhunt carried out by South Wales Police. On Tuesday Nushi and Dhana were given life sentences for the murder while Aliaj was jailed for 10 years for manslaughter. Charges against a fourth Albanian, a teenager, alleged to have attacked Waga and Davies were dropped due to a lack of evidence.
In court, Waga’s sister Patrycja described her brother’s murder as “brutal” and said the killers dumped his body “like a bag of rubbish”, said: “Tomasz had his entire life ahead of him including a new born son who is now fatherless. The events that unfolded on January 28, 2021, did not warrant my brother being killed as no one deserves to have their life taken at the hands of another individual or even worse, numerous individuals.”
“Cannabis market violence is a clearly a result of cannabis prohibition, not cannabis per sé, said Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst for Transform Drug Policy Foundation. “We simply don’t see producers and retailers in legal cannabis markets being beaten to death, just as we don’t see rival brewers or tobacconists killing each other.”
In October two cannabis farm burglars were jailed for life after stabbing 21-year-old Albanian Renato Geci to death while attempting to steal £100,000 of drugs from a house in west London in 2021.
Police in Wales are increasingly finding cannabis farms run by organised crime groups from Albania.
Last month three Albanian nationals who took selfies in front of plants and holding wads of cash to their ears like phones were sentenced to three years each after they were convicted of running a cannabis farm in a house in Neath near Swansea. Two weeks earlier, another Albanian, who said he had been trafficked in the back of a lorry and coerced into working in the weed factory after his family had been threatened back home, was arrested at a house in Bridgend. In November an Albanian man was arrested after a suburban house containing 250 weed plants was found in a village near Cardiff.
In October six Albanian cannabis farm “gardeners” were jailed after being caught in a house full of 550 plants in the seaside report of Rhyl, on the north Wales coast. Just along the north Wales coast in May the National Crime Agency swooped on the town of Prestatyn to arrest two members of an Albanian crime group that specialised in trafficking people from the Balkan country to work in a string of cannabis farms across Wales and the north of England. In June police arrested 12 Albanian members of an organised crime gang in a series of raids on weed farms in the Swansea area.
“Cannabis prohibition has created multi-billion pound illegal profit opportunity in the UK,” said Rolles. “It has attracted organised crime groups to the UK and creates the context for violence in the absence of legal regulation and accountability.
“For some vulnerable and marginalised people, including those with uncertain or insecure UK legal status, the illegal drugs market can offer one of the few opportunities for economic survival. But inevitably, such choices can leave already vulnerable individuals exposed to increased risks of exploitation and violence form organised crime groups, as well as risks of criminalisation under our cruel and failed drug laws.”
Following the sentencing of the three men for Waga’s murder, Detective Superintendent Mark O’Shea from South Wales Police said the investigation was one of the biggest and most complex investigations ever undertaken by South Wales Police, with arrests in Albania, France and Germany.
“People often talk of cannabis as being a victimless crime, but it’s not. Organised crime is behind many of these cannabis factories. The criminals are earning a lot of money off the back of our communities, and they protect their plantations by using violence and intimidation,” said Det Supt Mark O’Shea.
“Our thoughts are with the family of Tomasz Waga who was a much-loved son, brother, father, and partner to his girlfriend. He was a young man who made some bad choices and was in Cardiff that day for the wrong reason, however that does not excuse what took place.”
Source : VICE