FOUR CONVICTED people smugglers involved in the unlawful immigration of 39 individuals from Vietnam who died in the back of a lorry in Essex have been ordered to pay £31,493.47 in confiscation orders.
Maurice Robinson was convicted of assisting unlawful immigrations and acquiring criminal property offences. He has been sentenced to 13 years and four months in jail. Christopher Kennedy has been jailed for seven years for conspiring to assist unlawful immigration, while Valentin Calota is jailed for four-and-a-half years for the same offence.
In addition, Alexandru-Ovidiu Hangu has been jailed for three years after admitting conspiring to assist unlawful immigration in July 2021.
All four males were part of an illegal people smuggling operation of Vietnamese men, women and children aged between 15 and 44. These men, women and children were found dead on 22 October 2019. The victims died of oxygen starvation after being sealed in an air-tight lorry container for a period of nearly 12 hours.
During the investigation, which saw eight people convicted, it was discovered that significant sums of money were made from this exploitation. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) worked with the investigators to pursue illegal finances and ensure that no-one profited from this horrific tragedy.
Darren Fox (a specialist prosecutor for the CPS’ Proceeds of Crime Division) said: “Maurice Robinson, Christopher Kennedy, Valentin Calota and Alexandru-Ovidiu Hangu profited from smuggling people into the country, a practice which ended in 39 people dying in the most horrific circumstances.”
He continued: “Working with police financial investigators, the CPS found the four profited from this incident alongside other co-conspirators. However, we will never know the true extent of the benefit from this tragedy.”
Fox added: “The confiscation order set by the Judge reflects the assets available to the three defendants. We will continue to enforce the confiscation orders robustly and ensure that the money will be paid as compensation to the bereaved families.”
Immoral and dangerous
Detective Chief Inspector Louise Metcalfe, senior investigating officer for Essex Police, commented: “These men thought they could make a comfortable living by putting the lives of vulnerable people at risk. What they did was immoral and dangerous. I welcome the confiscation order that prohibits them from retaining money generated through ill-gotten means. These orders once again demonstrate the lengths we will go to at Essex Police to deliver justice to the families of those who lost their lives in the most tragic of ways.”
Metcalfe concluded: “While I appreciate that court orders will not bring their loved ones back, I hope our ongoing determination to bring those involved in this dangerous people smuggling operation to justice brings some comfort to the victims’ families. My thoughts will always be with the families of the victims.”
The CPS is committed to working with law enforcement to identify and prosecute those that exploit and profit from people trafficking. After conviction, the CPS can ask the court to make a confiscation order where the judge will consider two things: the total financial ‘benefit’ that a defendant made from their criminal activity and the total value of the assets the defendant currently has to pay their order, which is known as the ‘available amount’.
When the ‘available amount’ is less than the benefit amount, the defendant is only ordered to pay the amount of money they have available.