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In the early hours of 23 October 2019 a trailer unit was opened on an industrial estate just outside London and the bodies of 39 Vietnamese migrants were found inside. Several people were convicted for trafficking offences.

A Romanian people trafficker who was convicted in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants who died of suffocation and heat exhaustion while being smuggled into Britain in 2019 has been ordered to pay compensation of £3,000.

Alexandru Hanga, 29, was jailed for three years after admitting conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration between May 2018 and October 2019.

He was a relatively small cog in a people trafficking operation which brought illegal immigrants into the UK in the back of lorries, a racket which disastrously backfired in October 2019 with the migrants’ deaths in Essex.

© Photo : Essex Police

The 39 Vietnamese migrants who died in the back of a lorry en route to England

On Friday, 23 July, Hanga appeared by video link at the Old Bailey in London where prosecutor Jonathan Polnay explained an agreement which had been reached with his defence counsel.

Mr Polnay said it had been assessed that Hanga made £83,552 from his role in the people trafficking operation but he only had £3,000 left.

A £3,000 confiscation order was made against Hanga as well as a £3,000 compensation order but it was agreed that the money would go to the victims’ families to pay for funeral expenses.

Confiscation hearings against the ringleaders and the lorry drivers were adjourned until later this year.

© Photo : Essex Police

Gheorghe Nica in a convenience store in Thurrock shortly before getting into the cab of Harrison’s truck

Another Romanian – Gheorge Nica, 43 – was given the longest sentence, 27 years, for manslaughter in January this year.

Eamonn Harrison, 23, Northern Ireland, who drove the lorry trailer containing the migrants to Zeebrugge, where it was offloaded and sent on a ship to the Essex port of Purfleet, was jailed for 18 years for manslaughter.

© Photo : Essex Police

Eamonn Harrison, wearing a distinctive top, buying a can of soft drink after loading the migrants onto his truck

Harrison’s boss, haulage company owner Ronan Hughes, got 20 years after pleading guilty to manslaughter, and Maurice Robinson, the trucker who picked the trailer up at Purfleet and drove it a short distance to the lorry park in West Thurrock, was jailed for 13 years.

© Photo : Essex Police

An exchange between haulier Ronan Hughes and driver Maurice Robinson on Snapchat

Another trucker, Christopher Kennedy, 24, was jailed for seven years for conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, and Valentin Calota was given four and a half years for the same offence.

Kennedy’s barrister, James Scobie QC, said his client contested the amount of money he is alleged to have made from trafficking and Judge Mark Lucraft QC agreed to hold a half-day hearing in November.