Man to be extradited to Belgium in connection with Grays lorry deaths

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The bodies of 39 Vietnamese nationals were discovered in a sealed refrigerated trailer on 23 October 2019

A Vietnamese man will be extradited to Belgium to face charges connected to the deaths of 39 people in a lorry in Essex in 2019.

Alex Tran, 18, is allegedly a member of a smuggling network moving people through France and Belgium to the UK.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) previously said Tran played a "key role" in putting at least 10 migrants in the lorry.

Mr Tran was remanded in custody and has seven days to appeal.

The bodies of the Vietnamese victims were found in a refrigerated lorry trailer after it was transported by ferry from Zeebrugge to Purfleet in Essex, in October 2019.

Mr Tran is suspected of running safe houses in Brussels where they stayed, and organising their onward transport in taxis to a collection point in France, where they were put in the back of the lorry.

He is wanted in Belgium accused of being a member of a criminal organisation involved in the "organisation, facilitation of unauthorised entry and residence, forgery of documents and trafficking".

He was arrested at a petrol station in Middlesbrough in June and his extradition was ordered in a judgement handed down at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

In January, four men were jailed for between 27 years and 13 years and four months for manslaughter and plotting to people smuggle.

They were Gheorghe Nica, 44, from Basildon, and Ronan Hughes, 42, of Armagh, and lorry drivers Maurice Robinson, 27, of Craigavon, and Eamonn Harrison, 24, of County Down.

Three other members of the gang were also jailed.

Dragos Stefan Damian, 28, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration earlier this month and will be sentenced in January at the Old Bailey.

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