|Police examine the lorry in Essex, UK, after the bodies of 39 Vietnamese citizens were discovered inside in October, 2019. AFP/VNA Photo|
A man has been jailed for three years and 10 months in the UK for his role in the deaths of 39 Vietnamese citizens in October 2019.
Stefan Dragos Damian, 28, of no fixed address, appeared at the Old Bailey in London on November 16, 2021 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
On Monday, he was sentenced for his crimes.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Louise Metcalfe of Essex Police, said after he was jailed: “Dragos Damian was a key player in an evil people smuggling conspiracy that made money from misery.
“Along with his co-conspirators he knew that what he was doing was dangerous and wrong, but through sheer greed he did it anyway.
“I hope today’s sentence will once again serve as a warning to those who think it is acceptable to prey on the vulnerabilities of those who are seeking a different life for themselves and their families.
“If you take part in and make money from this abhorrent crime, we will find you, we will stop you and you will be sent to prison.
“I also hope that our ongoing commitment to this investigation will bring the families of the victims some comfort in knowing that those involved will spend a significant amount of time in prison. But I know that truthfully, their pain will never go away.
“My thoughts will always be with the families of the victims.”
The court heard how Dragos arrived in the UK shortly before the bodies were discovered and met with other key players in the people-smuggling gang.
But after police recovered the lorry with the dead Vietnamese inside, Dragos fled the country. He was eventually tracked down in Milan, Italy and was brought back to England to face the courts.
Russell Tyner, Specialist Prosecutor of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “This was a devastating case which ended in 39 people losing their lives in the most horrendous way.
“Damian played his part in this criminal enterprise by using his van for people smuggling without a second thought for the consequences or the wellbeing of those being trafficked.
“Our thoughts remain with the families of victims and hope this sentencing bring some small comfort.” VNS