AN ILLEGAL immigrant has been jailed for running a £3 million cannabis factory from a luxury farmhouse in a picturesque village.

More than 500 cannabis plants were seized after police swooped on the secluded farmhouse in the Downton on the Rock, near Ludlow on the Herefordshire and Shropshire border.

Officers were stunned when they found an industrial-sized cannabis farm being run from the sprawling property on May 15 this year.

The haul was estimated to be capable of making the criminal gang behind the operation around £3 million a year.

Hanh Nguyen, 37, originally from Vietnam, was caught trying to run from the remote farmhouse and was arrested at the scene.

He claimed he had only been there for a day but he later went on to plead guilty to production of cannabis at Shrewsbury Crown Court.

The court heard Nguyen had entered the UK illegally, having first arrived in 2004 and was deported in 2012 for previous cannabis offences.

On June 17 he was jailed for three years and was told he would be deported back to Vietnam upon his release.

Sentencing, Judge Jonathan Gosling said: “This is now the second time you have come illegally to this country and the third time you have been caught cultivating cannabis.

“I accept that this was not your operation. You didn’t set it up but you were a very valuable helper and you were doing it for money.”

Prosecutor Fiona Cortese said that the farmhouse was rented to three individuals other than Nguyen from June 2018.

Police visited in May this year to investigate the drugs operation and surrounded the building before storming the property.

Inside they found 531 cannabis plants, spread throughout five of the house’s six bedrooms, and cut plants being dried in the sixth.

Miss Cortese said: “This defendant was seen running from the rear door towards open fields. He tripped over and was arrested by police.

“There was nobody else present at the address.

“Inside the property was a commercial-scale cannabis operation. In total there were 531 cannabis plants.”

On searching the farmhouse police also found four vacuum-packed bags of cannabis and £350 in cash behind a sofa.

Jamie Scott, defending, said his client had been trafficked to the UK via China, and once he arrived in London was tasked with running the cannabis operation.

Superintendent Sue Thomas, of West Mercia Police, said previously: "This operation comes at a time when we are working tirelessly to reduce the County Lines crime as well as target organised crime groups in and around our counties.

“On the day, we seized and destroyed more than 500 cannabis plants, incinerated a number of industrial sized bags full of ready-to-sell cannabis buds and seized paraphernalia estimated at several hundred thousand pounds.

"This operation demonstrates how determined we are to deal with serious crimes in order to keep our communities safe from the impact of drugs.

“People deserve to be safe and free from organised criminality like this and teams are out there every day making a real difference to people's lives.

"Enquiries are now ongoing to identify those responsible and bring them to justice."