|The lorry where the bodies of the 39 Vietnamese citizens were discovered. AFP Photo|
HÀ NỘI — A Vietnamese man wanted by the Belgian authorities for his role in a people smuggling plot that led to the deaths of 39 people in a lorry in Essex has had his extradition ordered.
Alex Tran was detained by National Crime Agency officers at a supermarket gas station in the northeast of the UK on 17 June this year.
The operation to arrest him was supported by the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU).
Belgian prosecutors allege that Tran was a member of a people smuggling network moving migrants through Belgium and France and into the UK in the back of lorries.
A Belgian investigating magistrate issued an arrest warrant in December 2020.
He is suspected of running safe houses in Brussels where the migrants stayed before embarking on their fatal journey.
On Thursday 2 December, Westminster Magistrates Court in London approved his extradition. He was remanded in custody, and has seven days to appeal.
The NCA’s Head of Organised Immigration Crime Operations, Martin Grace, said: “This operation demonstrates our determination to get justice for those who died in October 2019 and track down all of those who played a role in the incident.
“It has been another example of our close co-operation with international partners to tackle organised immigration crime, which remains a priority for the NCA.”
The extradition follows the convictions of seven people in the UK for their roles in the events which led to the Essex deaths, including four men who were found guilty of manslaughter. The seven were given jail terms totalling more than 92 years in January 2021.
Another man wanted by the Belgians in connection with the case, Ngo Sy Tai, was extradited in November, having been arrested by the NCA in Worcestershire in December 2020. VNS