A TEENAGER from Greece who was found in charge of a £600,000 cannabis farm in a disused shop building in Selkirk has been jailed for 15 months.

Emiliano Boia - who had only been in the UK for six months - was promised £15,000 to look after the drug cultivation for three months in a former convenience store.

But in January a police raid recovered 652 cannabis plants in the building - just yards away from a primary school - and Boia was arrested.

Selkirk Sheriff Court was told his level of involvement was a "foot soldier in a large operation".

But Sheriff Peter Paterson told him: "You engaged in this course of conduct for money and while it maybe that you did not fully appreciate what was involved you could be under no illusion that you do not get £15,000 for three months work if there is not a high level of criminality involved."

It was the second time in three years that police had raided the Curror Street building for being a cannabis farm.

An illegal Vietnamese immigrant was jailed for three years after a cultivation to the value of £150,000 was found in October 2015.

Despite the previous history of the building, it was again used as a cannabis farm three years later with the electricity supply by-passed to assist the cultivation.

And when police raided the property on January 15, Boia was the only person found on the premises and subsequently arrested.

However the court heard that it was accepted the 19-year-old was probably "at the lower echelons of the operation".

Boia, originally from the Albanian city of Elbasan but who grew up in the Greece town of Nafplion, is understood to have arrived in Britain in July visiting cities such as London and Glasgow.

Procurator fiscal Graham Fraser told the court Boia had no previous convictions and had been in custody since January 16.

He said: "The location here is a two-storey derelict property in a residential street in Selkirk.

"Previously there were shop premises on the ground-floor and a four-bedroom flat upstairs.

"It has been uninhabited for some time but it is not the first time a cultivation of cannabis has been found there but I stress Mr Boia had no connection with the previous episode.

"On January 11 a search warrant was obtained and on January 15 a search was carried out.

"A strong smell of cannabis was evident as soon as the premises were entered and the accused was found in the bedroom area.

"The electricity supply had been by-passed but again there is no suggestion the accused was involved in that.

"Once the place was made safe a full search was carried out."

Mr Fraser detailed the amount of plants recovered during the raid and the stage they were at in the growing process.

He concluded that the wholesale value of the cannabis recovered would have been worth £219,000 but a "conservative estimate" of street deals of £10 per gramme would produce a figure close to £625,000.

Boia pleaded guilty to a charge of being concerned in the supply of cannabis.

Defence lawyer Greg McDonnel said his client had got in too deep and when he realised what he was involved in could not get out.

He explained: "This is a young man who had good grades at school in Greece `and came across to the UK looking for a better life and to get an income so that he could send money back to his family in Greece.

"He was living in a disused shop with no heat or light. In the two month period he was there he was visited on a weekly basis by an Albanian man who would deliver food and further instructions.

"He had indicated a desire to leave and did not want to carry on but he felt trapped.

"My client was put on a train from London to Glasgow and met by an individual there. "He took photos of himself at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery so that he could tell his family he had gone on holiday and then was driven in a van to Selkirk.

"His part in the operation was at the lower end of the scale."

Mr McDonnel pointed out that Boia had received no money for his role as he had been arrested.

He added that he planned to return to Greece at the end of his sentence.

The custodial sentence was back-dated to January 16 when he was first remanded in custody in connection with the matter.