A TEENAGER who came to the UK in search of “a better life, but ended up dealing drugs in Basingstoke has avoided spending time in jail.

Kevin Iliga, 18, of no fixed abode, appeared at Winchester Crown Court on Friday having pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to two counts of possession with the intent to supply Class A drugs, namely crack cocaine and heroin.

The court heard on March 27 this year, police officers were at a property in St Michael’s Road, South Ham, as they had become of a ‘cuckooing’ situation, where drug dealers exploit vulnerable people to use their homes as bases for their operations. a

When officers arrived, a neighbour told them two men had run out of the property.

Prosecuting, Alejandra Tascon told the court: “When officers arrested Iliga he was found to have £680 in cash on his person.”

Iliga went on to be strip-searched by officers and was found to have a package inserted up his bottom.

When the package was retrieved, it was revealed to contain Class A drugs worth more than £1,500.

Defending the teenager, Jane Rowley, told the court he had been sent to the UK from Paris by his mother in search of a better life, but had struggled to find work and was living a “hand-to-mouth existence.”

Ms Rowley said: “He had originally come to London, before travelling to Manchester where despite the wishes of his mother and others he got involved in the underbelly of life in the city.

“He then somehow ends up in Basingstoke where he is sofa-surfing and sleeping in doorways before he is recruited by a drugs gang to run drugs.”

Iliga had also pleaded guilty to being in possession of a bladed article in a public place in October last year.

The court heard a member of the public saw the teenager in a Salford park with a machete, which he claimed was for “his own protection.”

Miss Tascon said: “Mr Iliga was seen waving the the machete around in a very public place.”

In sentencing, Judge Keith Cutler CBE said: “This is a chance I am giving you, but you have to do you part as well.”

Iliga was sentenced to 21 months for the two drugs charges and three months for possession of bladed article, to run consecutively. The sentence was suspended for two years, with Iliga ordered to undertake 120 hours of unpaid work.