Romanian Sentenced in London for Complicity in Death of Refugees in Truck in Essex


A 50-year-old Romanian was sentenced on Tuesday to twelve years and seven months in prison for his involvement in the death of 39 Vietnamese refugees found in a truck in the United Kingdom in October 2019.


The man pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aiding illegal immigration. In August last year, he was arrested in Romania.

The British judge described him as an “essential cog” in the smuggling network and as Georghe Nica’s “right-hand man”. The latter, also a Romanian, was sentenced to 27 years in prison in January 2021 for unintentional manslaughter and human smuggling. Ronan Hughes, a Northern Irish driver, was sentenced to 20 years.

On October 23, 2019, the bodies of 39 people were found in a refrigerated container in the Grays industrial zone, east of London. The container came from Zeebrugge. All Vietnamese occupants, including two 15-year-old boys, died of suffocation and hyperthermia due to the enclosed space’s heat and lack of oxygen. They had all paid sums of up to 13,000 pounds (14,000 euros) for the crossing to the United Kingdom.

According to Attorney Emlyn Jones, Romanian Marisu Draghici, convicted on Tuesday, was present when Nica handed over “a huge sum” to Hughes after Nica had received the money from a Vietnamese smuggler.

Draghici’s lawyer says his client is “shocked and appalled” by what happened and has difficulty coming to terms with it.

Seven people were previously convicted in Vietnam for their involvement in the human smuggling affair. An investigation was also launched in Belgium and France. Earlier this year, the leader of the people smuggling gang in Ghent received a lower prison sentence: ten instead of fifteen years in prison.

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