Smuggler who killed 39 in lorry sanctioned, to pay 65,000 pounds to families

A smuggler who killed 39 people in the back of a lorry is to pay more than £65,000 ($81,735 million dollars) as compensation, bringing the total to more than £280,000.

Romanian Gheorghe Nica, 46, was jailed for 27 years in 2021 for the manslaughter of the Vietnamese nationals, aged between 15 and 44, found in a vehicle in Essex on October 22 2019.

The victims died in sweltering conditions as they were transported in an airtight container from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet.

Nica, of Basildon in Essex, was ordered to pay 65,157.65 pounds sterling to the victims’ families through a confiscation order made at the Old Bailey, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said on Friday.

Nica was one of five gang members jailed for the manslaughters, with others convicted of people-smuggling.

The confiscation order made against him brings the total ordered by the court to be paid to families of the victims by the gang to 283,802.58, pounds Sterling the CPS said.

A hearing in October heard how Nica made at least 90,000 pounds sterling from people-smuggling.

The court heard how the 39 deaths marked the end of a long-running and profitable operation in which migrants would pay up to 13,000 pounds sterling for what they thought was a “VIP service.’’

Seven smuggling trips were identified between May 2018 and October 23 2019, although investigators believe there were probably more.


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Migrants would board Lorries at a remote location on the continent to be transported to Britain, where they would be picked up by fleet of smaller vehicles organised by Nica to a safe house until payment was received.

On Friday, Judge Mark Lucraft KC ruled that the total amount by which Nica benefited was 186,587.65 pounds sterling.

After assessing the defendant’s assets, the judge ordered him to pay 65,175.65 pounds sterling within three months.

According to the judge, a failure to pay would result to a further year in prison.

The judge said: “I direct that the confiscation sum be paid as compensation to the families of those killed in this terrible tragedy.’’

Previously, Nica’s partner in crime, haulage boss Ronan Hughes, from Armagh, Northern Ireland, was ordered to pay the victims’ families more than 180,000 pounds sterling after being jailed for 20 years.

The lorry driver, Maurice Robinson, of Craigavon in Northern Ireland, who found the bodies in the back of his trailer and was jailed for 13 years and four months, had to sell his 4×4 vehicle and watch to pay more than 21,000 pounds sterling.

Romanian Alexandru-Ovidiu Hanga, from Essex, was ordered to pay 3,000 pounds sterling after being jailed for three years after admitting conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.

Another people-smuggler, Valentin Calota, from Birmingham, was ordered to pay more than 1,000 pounds sterling.

Darren Fox from the CPS said, “Nica profited from smuggling people into the country, which ended in 39 people dying in the most horrific circumstances.

“The CPS worked with the police financial investigators to identify Nica’s criminal benefit from this tragedy and what assets he currently holds.

“The confiscation order set by the judge reflects all the assets available to Nica.

“He also made a compensation order for that amount to be paid to the families of the victims.

 We will continue to ensure that money will be paid by defendants for the proceeds of these awful crimes.

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