Belgian court gives main suspect of Essex lorry deaths 15 year prison sentence

Belgian court gives main suspect of Essex lorry deaths 15 year prison sentence
The lorry in which 39 people were found dead. Credit: Belga

A court in Bruges sentenced a man living in Belgium to 15 years in prison on Wednesday for his role for his role in smuggling migrants, which resulted in 39 people dying.

Various human traffickers and their accomplices brought some of the victims to Belgium, housed them in Brussels and transported some of the victims from Belgium to the United Kingdom, where all 39 of the people in the back of a lorry were found dead in October 2019.

The main suspect, a Vietnamese man who has refused to disclose his identity but was reportedly living in Belgium without a valid residency status, was given a 15-year prison sentence, a fine of €920,000 and forfeiture – the deprivation of objects wholly or mainly obtained by means of or from the proceeds of the offence – of more than €2 million, according to reports from De Standaard. 

He was arrested in the UK and at the start of December last year it was announced he would be extradited to Belgium to face charges for his role in the deaths of the people who were found dead in a refrigerated lorry trailer that entered England via Zeebrugge.

Sentencing of drivers and accomplices

One Brussels taxi driver, who reportedly carried out some 50 journeys for the human trafficking gang in relation to this case, received an effective prison sentence of seven years. Several other drivers, who he had recruited, received suspended prison sentences or were acquitted.

The owners of two houses in Anderlecht, where some of the victims were accommodated before their departure to the UK, received fines and suspended prison sentences.

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A court in the UK already sentenced seven people, including the drivers and their accomplices, for their role in the crime in January 2021. The seven were given jail terms totalling more than 92 years in January 2021.

The bodies of 39 people, including three minors, were found in the back of a lorry in Grays, a borough in the southern English county of Essex. They died as a result of overheating and suffocation, as there were too many of them in the airtight refrigerated container.

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