Trafficker involved in deaths of 39 Vietnamese jailed

July 12, 2023 - 10:16
Marius Mihai Draghici was arrested in Romania in August last year as a result of joint work with the National Crime Agency.


Marius Mihai Draghici has been jailed for more than 12 years. Photo courtesy of Essex Police

HÀ NỘI — A man who went on the run after being accused of conspiracy in relation to the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants has been jailed for more than 12 years.

Marius Mihai Draghici was arrested in Romania in August last year as a result of joint work with the National Crime Agency.

Draghici was extradited to the UK to face charges of 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration. 

The 50-year-old pleaded guilty to all charges during a hearing at the Central Criminal Court in London, UK, on Friday 23 June.

On Tuesday, 11 July, he was sentenced to 12 years and seven months for the manslaughter offences and a further four years and two months for the immigration offence, which will be served concurrently.

The Honourable Mr Justice Garnham told Draghici that the effects of conduct on the lorry occupants were “obvious” and had “enormous consequences for their friends and family”.

He also said the operation was part of an organised criminal enterprise which was run for profit and put migrants at risk of death.

Justice Garnham added Draghici played a “small but essential cog” in the conspiracy which led to the 39 victims’ “agonising” deaths.

The tragic discovery was made in the early hours of Wednesday, 23 October 2019, when the Vietnamese men, women and children were found unresponsive in the trailer of a lorry by its driver, in Eastern Avenue, Grays, Essex.

The lorry had travelled from Zeebrugge in Belgium to the Port of Purfleet, in Essex.

Each of the victims, and their families, had paid significant sums of money to an organised criminal group whose members promised them safe passage to the UK and a life there.

However, that promise turned to tragedy and the victims suffocated in the back of the lorry, which was being driven by Northern Irishman Maurice Robinson.

Draghici’s role was to be involved in the onward transportation of the migrants once they arrived in the UK.

Migrants were loaded onto the trailers in mainland Europe before travelling unaccompanied on ferries to the UK.

The Vietnamese migrants who died in the back of the lorry in 2019. Photo courtesy of Essex Police

Detective Chief Inspector Louise Metcalfe, who led the investigation for Essex Police, said: “For more than three years, we have never lost sight of the far-reaching impact the events of October 2019 has had, both here in Essex and, most acutely, in Việt Nam.

“Each of the people inside the lorry container were mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. They have family who feel their loss acutely each and every day.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Hooper, who oversaw the investigation, added: “In October 2019, we made a promise to the families of our 39 victims that we would deliver justice. We have never lost sight of that promise and the investigation team members have ensured that we have kept that promise.”

One final defendant is still to be tried. Caolan Gormley, 25, of Armagh, Northern Ireland, is charged with one count of conspiracy to assist illegal immigration and awaits trial for unlawful immigration offences. 

Draghici is the tenth person so far to be sentenced for their role in the deaths of the 39 people.

Other gang members jailed include Ronan Hughes (27 years), Gheorghe Nica (18 years) and Maurice Robinson (13 years, four months).  VNS