London trial starts for four accused in deadly migrant smuggling plot – dpa international


Rice paddies in Thanh Hoa, northern Vietnam as seen in late 2011 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A lorry container became a “tomb” for 39 Vietnamese migrants who suffocated while being smuggled into Britain in 2019, a jury at the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales was told on Wednesday.

“Obviously, any time you fill an airtight container with a large number of people, where they will be left for hours and hours … it is fraught with danger,” said prosecution lawyer Bill Emlyn Jones.

British resident Gheorghe Nica and Irish lorry driver Eamonn Harrison face 39 counts of manslaughter and one count of conspiracy to assist illegal immigration.

Valentin Calota, also listed as a British resident, and Christopher Kennedy, from Northern Ireland, face the latter charge, to which Nica pleaded guilty ahead of the trial

The 39 bodies were discovered in the container after it was parked in an industrial estate in Essex in October 2019. The container had been taken by road from Dunkirk in France to Zeebrugge in Belgium, from where it was put on a Britain-bound ferry.

Two others involved in the deadly people-smuggling plot are facing jail time in Britain for manslaughter.

Haulier Ronan Hughes was arrested in Ireland before being extradited to Britain in June. He pleaded guilty at the central criminal court – better known as the Old Bailey – in August. Driver Maurice Robinson pleaded guilty in April.

Four Vietnamese nationals involved in the plot were jailed in their home country last month.

Jones said people-smuggling is a lucrative business, claiming that migrants sometimes pay up to 10,000 pounds to organise passage from Vietnam to Britain.

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