The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales Friday sentenced seven persons to a total of 92 years in prison after their failed smuggling attempt resulted in the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants.
The migrants were shipped from Vietnam to the UK in a sealed refrigeration container, but oxygen levels depleted and the temperature rose to 40C during the journey. The bodies were found 10 hours later by Maurice Robinson, the driver of the smuggling operation. He had been paid £25,000 by Ronan Hughes, one of the two ringleaders, to collect the container after its delivery to the port of Purfleet in Essex. The migrants paid the smugglers to be able to work illegally in the UK, and most of them paid approximately £30,000.
Prior to the trial, the defense attempted a claim for Hughes to be tried in Ireland instead of the UK. The claim failed after the counsel for the minister of justice argued that the extradition claim was a “red herring,” stating that the deaths of all of the migrants happened within the UK. The High Court of Ireland ordered Hughes’ extradition to the UK in June 2020.
The two ringleaders were sentenced to 20 and 27 years respectively; Robinson was sentenced to 13 years while Eamonn Harrison, the driver who drove the container from Belgium to Britain, was sentenced to 18 years. Alexandru-Ovidiu Hanga, Christopher Kennedy and Gazmir Nuzi were found guilty for their involvement in the illegal smuggling ring, and were sentenced to three, four and seven years respectively.