UK prosecutors hail latest conviction for Vietnamese migrant deaths

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London (AFP) – British prosecutors on Tuesday welcomed another conviction stemming from a years-long investigation into a people-smuggling operation that left 39 Vietnamese migrants dead in horrific conditions inside a lorry.

A British court on Monday sentenced Stefan Dragos Damian, a 28-year-old Romanian citizen, to three years and 10 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to assist illegal immigration, they said.

“Another smuggler has been jailed for his role which resulted in the deaths of 39 Vietnamese in the back of a lorry,” said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which handles prosecutions in England and Wales, after sentencing.

Monday’s decision follows a British judge who last year handed down 27 and 20-year sentences to the ringleaders of the people-smuggling operation, while two lorry drivers were given 13-year sentences. and 18 years old.

Belgian authorities also tried 23 people suspected of involvement.

The victims – the youngest of whom were two 15-year-old boys – suffocated in the truck’s container as they were transported to what they had hoped would be a new life in Britain.

The lifeless bodies of the migrants were discovered inside the sealed unit at a port near London in October 2019.

The case has shed shocking new light on the distances migrants travel to reach Britain – and the gangs who exploit their desperation.

The CPS noted that Damian had been ‘brought to justice’ as part of a multi-agency investigation involving the National Crime Agency, Essex Police, Home Office and fellow law enforcement through Europe.

Italian police arrested him last June in Milan on a British arrest warrant and he was extradited last September.

The investigation by British authorities established that he was part of a wider plot to smuggle people and that he fled the country immediately after the discovery of the 39 dead Vietnamese migrants.

“Dragos Damian was a key player in a vicious human trafficking conspiracy that made money out of misery,” Chief Detective Inspector Louise Metcalfe said in a statement.

She said she hoped the phrase would “serve as a warning to those who think it’s okay to prey on the vulnerabilities of those seeking a different life for themselves and their families.”

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