British truck death investigation makes 26 arrests in Belgium and France

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Belgian and French police have arrested 26 people in an investigation into human trafficking triggered by the gruesome discovery last year of 39 Vietnamese migrants who died in a refrigerated truck in the UK.

The arrests were made Tuesday during morning raids carried out simultaneously in Belgium and Ile-de-France as part of two judicial investigations, the French prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Thirteen people were arrested in each of the two countries, the Belgian federal prosecutor revealing that 11 of the people detained by the authorities of the country are Vietnamese and the other two are Moroccan.

“The suspects are said to have been part of an organized crime group (BCG) which smuggled refugees from Asia, in particular from Vietnam, and who probably transported up to several dozen people every day for several months. “Eurojust, an EU agency operating between member states, added.

Five victims / migrants were also found during the raids.

The operations were supported by a joint investigation team created in October 2019 between Belgium, Ireland, France, the United Kingdom, Eurojust and Europol after the discovery of 39 Vietnamese nationals who died inside a refrigerated truck in Essex, in the South East of England.

The victims – 31 men and eight women – were between the ages of 15 and 44 and allegedly paid traffickers to smuggle them into the UK.

A report to the coroner said they died from a combination of asphyxiation and overheating.

Northern Irish truck driver Maurice Robinson, 25, pleaded guilty to manslaughter last month in central London court. Co-accused Gheorghe Nica, 43, however, denied the charges of manslaughter.

Several other people have also been arrested in connection with the deaths, including at least seven in Vietnam.

Smugglers arrested on Tuesday face up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to € 150,000 per victim.

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