Convicted trafficker sentenced to 12 years for the deaths of 39 migrants
In a case that sent shockwaves around the globe, a man implicated in a fatal human smuggling operation, which resulted in the horrific deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants, has been handed a prison sentence exceeding a decade.
The BBC reported that the individual at the heart of this operation, Marius Draghici, a 50-year-old from Romania, played a pivotal role in the scheme that culminated in a dreadful tragedy.
He pleaded guilty to 39 charges of manslaughter and a single count of conspiracy to aid illegal immigration. The victims, discovered in a lorry container at an industrial site in Grays, met their end in conditions that were described as "beyond comprehension".
Judge goes viral
The judge went viral with his statement that Draghici was a "minor yet indispensable component in the machinery of this criminal plot."
Draghici was responsible for the subsequent transportation of the migrants within the UK.
The victims had paid a substantial amount for what was marketed as a "VIP" passage to Europe. 28 men, eight women, and three children aged between 15 and 44 were the ones who had died.
They set off on their journey from Paris to Bierne where they were subsequently transported by taxis to a barn.
They then boarded a lorry, captured on CCTV footage traversing France towards the Belgian port of Zeebrugge. The lorry was subsequently loaded onto a ferry destined for Purfleet-on-Thames, Essex. However, the environment inside the container progressively worsened as temperatures soared to 101 and oxygen levels drastically dropped.
The victims died of suffocation, succumbing to asphyxia and carbon monoxide poisoning. Their final voice messages to their family members, termed as "heart-wrenching" by the judge, were played in the courtroom.
The lorry driver, Maurice Robinson, stumbled upon the bodies in the early hours of October 23. He eventually alerted the emergency services. Draghici was later apprehended in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, and extradited in late 2022.
Furthermore, he confessed to having been present at the remote Collingwood Farm in Orsett, Essex, where migrants were unloaded during earlier smuggling operations. Victim impact statements from relatives were read out in court, providing a poignant depiction of the victims' aspirations and dreams.
Among the deceased was a 15-year-old trained hairdresser, Nguyen Huy Hung, who had paid £12,000.
A married couple, Tran Hai Loc and Nguyen Thi Van, who had two young children back in Vietnam, had planned to work as fruit pickers in Hungary but made a last-minute decision to travel to the UK.
Their family revealed they still owed $14,000 (£10,860) and that life was "extremely challenging" without them.
Justice delivered, but sorrow persists
Defence barrister Gillian Jones KC contended that Draghici was not in a supervisory role in the operation and had fled the country out of "fear" and "shock." The judge acknowledged that Draghici exhibited "sincere remorse" for his actions.
Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Hooper of Essex Police commented:
"This case was never about claiming victory, it was always about securing justice for 39 families whose lives were shattered."
National Crime Agency deputy director Tom Dowdall labeled the case as a "horrific demonstration of the heartless nature of human smuggling gangs, who are willing to gamble with the lives of those they transport for monetary profit."
- A man implicated in a fatal human smuggling operation that led to the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants has been handed a 12-year prison sentence.
- The victims had paid a substantial amount for what was marketed as a "VIP" passage to Europe.
- The environment inside the lorry progressively worsened, leading to their suffocation.
- The victims' final voice messages to their family members were played in court.
- Draghici was later apprehended and extradited.
- Victim impact statements provided a poignant depiction of the victims' aspirations and dreams.
- The judge acknowledged that Draghici exhibited "sincere remorse" for his actions.