Three cannabis “gardeners” who between them were looking after four drug factories in south Belfast have each been jailed for two and a half years.
Illegal immigrants A Jie Fang, 24, Yu Cheng Weng, 30, and Wen Zheng, 26, were looking after plants with an estimated value of more than £500,000.
They were found in houses in Haypark Avenue, Florenceville Avenue, Brookhill Avenue and Candahar Street.
Belfast crown court was told all were sophisticated cannabis factories.
Prosecution lawyer Kate McKay said that in each of the properties, the bedrooms had been adapted to grow the plants.
Equipment included heat lamps, extractor fans, reflective sheeting and transformers and a total of 1,109 plants in various stages of maturity were found.
In one of the houses, she said, the electrical supply had been illegally bypassed.
She said that all three, as well as 45-year-old Hang Yu who has already been dealt with, were arrested in the Florenceville Avenue property when officers saw them coming downstairs with their hands covered in soil.
DNA and fingerprint evidence had linked them to the other houses.
All three pleaded guilty to numerous offences of cultivating and producing cannabis and possessing cannabis with intent to supply, while Fang also admitted possessing an ecstasy tablet.
Defence lawyers said the three had been used as gardeners by those controlling the operations and that they could now face deportation once their jail sentences finish.
Handing down the jail terms and ordering that all the drugs and paraphernalia be destroyed, Judge Tom Burgess said he was not making any recommendation about deportation as there may be claims for political asylum from the three in the future.