Orphaned Vietnamese teen trafficked to the UK became cannabis farmer in Chesterfield
A Vietnamese teenager has told a court how he grew up in an orphanage, was trafficked to the UK and then ended up in the clutches of a drugs gang in Derbyshire.
Teo Pham said he was educated in the children’s home in his own country before being trafficked to Russia at the age of 11.
From there he escaped on foot “walking through forests” and hitching rides on lorries until he found a job in Europe as a delivery driver.
There, he saved up the $5,000 dollars he was told he would need to be shipped illegally to the UK and ended up in Derbyshire.
Now, the 18-year-old’s journey has finished with a 10-month term in a young offender institute after he was caught in a house in Calow with £70,000 of cannabis.
And his co-defendant, Tan Han, has also been jailed for eight months and now faces being deported back to his country which he fled two years ago after having a finger chopped off by a drugs gang he was involved in.
Jailing them both, Recorder Benjamin Nicholls said: “You now know that the stories people smugglers told you about life in this country are not true.
“You now know the reality of the life of riches you hoped for has, instead, seen you both fall into the clutches of sophisticated criminals who asked you to look after their significant cannabis grow operation.
“It is likely that operation had been going on for some time with 167 plants growing in the rooms and another 6.6kg of cannabis drying in another room.”
The hearing began with Pham giving evidence to prove that he is 18, as the copy of his birth certificate stated, and not the older age the authorities believe him to be.
He told how he grew up in an orphanage in Vietnam before being trafficked to live in Russia at the age of 11.
Speaking through an interpreter, the teen said: “The pay was low and the conditions were bad.
“I fled, I got away, I walked a long way, I walked through forests and then went on lorries and then got a job doing deliveries.
“I saved $5,000 that I was told I would need (to get to the UK).
“I first found work in a Chinese restaurant through friends and then I was taken to the house (where the cannabis grow was discovered).”
Sarah Slater, prosecuting, said neighbours of the property, in Church Lane, Calow, called the police after seeing “people coming and going” and “smelling cannabis coming from the property”.
Police raided it on October 10 and found Pham and Tan, 55, inside.
They told officers they were being ordered to tend to the plants and were being given food and accommodation as a reward.
The pair both pleaded guilty to production of cannabis and possession of the class B drug with intent to supply.
Kelly Shooter, for Tan, said: “He came to the UK two years ago having fled Vietnam to get away from a (drugs) gang he was involved with who chopped off one of his fingers.”
Joe Harvey, for Pham, said: “You have heard how he is a young man who has had a difficult life.”
The case was heard at Derby Crown Court, sitting at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court, on Wednesday, March 29.