Man growing cannabis in midlands had convictions for murder and rape

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Man growing cannabis in midlands had convictions for murder and rape

Details about cannabis growhouse were heard at Tullamore Circuit Court

ONE of the men running a cannabis growhouse in Offaly had been convicted of murder and rape in Lithuania before he came to Ireland, Tullamore Circuit Court heard on Thursday morning.

Egidijis Juodiskis, 40, was jailed for five years by Judge Keenan Johnson but the sentence will be suspended for 15 years if he leaves Ireland.

He had pleaded guilty to the cultivation of cannabis worth nearly €66,000 following his arrest at a bungalow at Beggarstown, Birr, Co Offaly on 11 May 2020.

Garda Helen Colleran told the Circuit Court today that Mr Juodiskis was seen walking from a shed at the rear of the bungalow when gardai arrived there to conduct a search.

Garda Colleran said the shed had been adapted for use as a growhouse and had insulation, artificial lighting and thermometers.

Gardai seized 55 mature cut plants worth €44,000 and 1,091 grams of cannabis herb valued at over €21,800.

A search of the house found that it was being adapted for cannabis cultivation and plants were growing there and there were bags of compost.

In interviews with the gardai, Mr Juodiskis said he had been brought to the house and told how to grow the cannabis.

He had arrived in Ireland in 2019 and lived in Ireland at first but could get no work and then had no option but to join “a Russian individual” and go to the house where all the cannabis seeds and growing equipment were brought.

He said he had not been paid and did not make any money from what he had done.

Garda Colleran said that while the man had no previous convictions for offences involving drugs, he had received a four-year sentence when he was 18 for rape and a 14-year sentence for murder when he was 23.

A separated father of two children who was originally from Lithuania, Mr Juodiskis had very poor English.

Judge Johnson said Mr Juodiskis was effectively a “gardener” who was being used as slave labour by the masterminds behind the operation.

He was critical of people who rented their properties out without having them registered with the Private Residential Tenancies Board because the gardai were then unable to ascertain who the tenants were.

He said those who rent out their houses in such circumstances are “to a certain extent enabling this type of illicit activity to continue”.

He said Mr Juodiskis was a man who had served his sentences for rape and murder and was “easy prey” for the masterminds of the drug business and had no prospects for work himself because of his previous convictions.

Judge Johnson said he did not agree that cannabis was a “soft” drug because between five and seven per cent of people who used it went on to develop schizophrenia.

The five-year sentence was backdated to 11 May last year and Judge Johnson said the accused is only to be released from prison when transport back to Lithuania is arranged and he can be escorted to a flight.

Previously a co-accused, Nicolai Cojuhari, a 28-year-old who had played professional basketball for his native Moldova, received a three-year suspended sentence for cultivating cannabis at the same location on the same date.