Thirteen individuals are facing human trafficking charges over the death of 39 Vietnamese whose bodies were recovered in a refrigerated truck in Britain, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Saturday.
Quoting a judicial source, AFP reported that six of the group were caught in Paris on Tuesday and were charged with manslaughter after the group’s alleged key figure in France, a 29-year old man nicknamed “The Bald Duke,” was captured in Germany.
Another 13 people were arrested in an international police operation in Belgium on the same day.
The victims were 31 men and eight women migrants aged 15 to 44 and were all found dead in the lorry in an industrial zone in London in October 2019. Most victims were from Vietnam’s Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces where there are not much job opportunities and are prone to environmental disasters.
An investigation found that the migrants were loaded into the truck in Northern France, crossing Britain from France. Autopsies concluded that the victims died from oxygen deprivation and overheating in an enclosed space.
The group was said to have continued operating after their deaths, and are charging migrants up to 20,000 euros for them to cross between the two countries.
AFP said that Maurice Robinson, a 25-year old Irish national and is the driver of the truck, already admitted to the killing but Tuesday’s hunt down targeted the smugglers who have organised the victims’ migration from Asia. Robinson’s trial is set on October 5, 2020.
Apart from human trafficking charges, the 13 arrested in France are also facing charges of membership of a criminal organisation, with all excluding one suspect was put in custody.
Meanwhile, 11 of the 13 caught in Belgium were slapped with charges of human trafficking, membership of a criminal organisation, and fraud, Belgian prosecutors said.
Four other suspects on trial in London over the tragedy, while another man named Ronan Hughes, is facing extradition from Ireland to Britain over 39 counts of manslaughter and one of conspiracy to commit unlawful immigration.
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