The two ringleaders of an Irish-Romanian people-smuggling gang who were responsible for the deaths of 39 Vietnamese who suffocated in a sealed refrigeration container have received prison sentences of 27 and 20 years.
Also, four Irish men were among those jailed by a court in London last week. Three of them were jailed for manslaughter.
Who are the Convicted?
Ronan Hughes (41) ran a haulage company and organised the lorries and drivers to transport migrants. He was sentenced to 20 years at the Old Bailey in London Friday. Hughes pleaded guilty last year to 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiring to bring people into the country unlawfully.
Gheorghe Nica (43) is a Romanian lorry mechanic who helped to coordinate the transport of the migrants. He was found guilt last year of manslaughter and people smuggling. Mr Justice Sweeney sentenced him to 20 years in prison.
Maurice Robinson (26) is a lorry driver from Craigavon, Co Armagh who collected the container with the 39 people inside from the port in Essex in October of 2019. He pleaded guilty last year to manslaughter and people smuggling. He was sentenced to 13 years and four months in prison.
Hughes instructed Robinson to open the lorry trailer to give the migrants air after he collected the container from Purfleet docks, but Robinson found they were all dead. He waited 20 minutes before calling emergency services.
Eammon Harrison (24) is a lorry driver from Maybridge, Co Down. He collected the migrants in northern France and drove the container. He was found guilty of smuggling and 39 manslaughter counts. Harrison was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Christopher Kennedy (24), a lorry driver from C Amargh was involved in earlier people smuggling runs, bringing Vietnamese migrants from Northern Ireland. Kennedy was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Importance of the Trial
This landmark trial has exposed the complex and lucrative operation of smuggling Vietnamese people into the UK. The prosecution described the people-smuggling conspiracy as “sophisticated, long-running and profitable”.
Each passenger in the container paid smugglers between £10,000 and £13,000 to be brought from northern France. Families of many of the victims had mortgaged their land to pay fees of up to £30,000 to people smugglers to take them to the UK. The final leg of the trip from France to the UK was just one of many steps which the victims took.
Family members of the victims said the victims hoped to send their earnings in the UK back to their families in Vietnam.
The trial focused on four people-smuggling runs by the gang in the space of a fortnight in October of 2019. If these runs had been successful, the gang would have brought more than 80 Vietnamese migrants into the UK. The gang would have earned around £800,000 for the runs.
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The bodies of 39 Vietnamese were discovered in the container in October of 2019. [Image credit: PA]
The victims of the tragedy. [Image credit: The Irish Times]