Men from Northern Ireland jailed over 2019 lory incident asked to pay back criminal earnings

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Two men from Northern Ireland, UK, who were imprisoned in 2019 over the deaths of 39 people from Vietnam in a lorry have been asked to pay back thousands of pounds from their criminal earnings.

Maurice Robinson, 26, of Laurel Drive, Craigavon, was convicted to 13 years and four months in jail for 39 deaths of manslaughter, conspiracy to help unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property.

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Christopher Kennedy, 24, of Coakley Road, Darkley, Co. Armagh, was condemned to seven years for a plot towards assisting unlawful immigration.

Thirty-nine people died in the lorry due to oxygen starvation. Following Earnings of Crime Act hearings, the court asked Robinson to pay back £21,262, while Kennedy was ordered he must pay back £6,094.

Two other men who were jailed over this tragedy were also subject to confiscation orders.

Valentin Calota, 38, of Cottingham Road, Birmingham, was sentenced to 4.5 years for conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and was ordered to pay £1,137.

Alexandru-Ovidiu Hangu, aged 29, of Hobart Road, Tilbury, was sent to prison for three years for the same crime and must pay £3,000.

The four men were part of an unlawful people-smuggling operation of Vietnamese men, women and children, aged between 15 and 44, who died on October 22, 2019.

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After being locked in an air-tight lorry container for almost 12 hours, the sufferers starved of oxygen and died.

During the investigation, which saw eight people condemned, it was found that substantial sums of money were acquired from this exploitation.

“Maurice Robinson, Valentin Calota, Christopher Kennedy, and Alexandru-Ovidiu Hangu benefited from smuggling individuals into the country, a situation in which 39 people lost their lives in the most horrific circumstances,” said Specialist Prosecutor Darren Fox of the CPS.

“The CPS, operating with police monetary investigators, found that the four profited along with other co-conspirators from this tragedy. However, we will never know the actual amount of the profits from this tragedy.”

“We will continue to enforce the confiscation orders robustly and ensure that the money will be paid as compensation to the bereaved families.”

Senior Investigating Officer for Essex Police, Detective Chief Inspector Louise Metcalfe, said the men profited while gambling with people’s lives.

“These men thought they could make a better living by putting the lives of vulnerable people at stake,” she said.

“What they did was inhuman and scary, and I accept the orders made by the courts that prohibit them from having money generated through illegal means.”

“These orders once again show the lengths we will go to at Essex Police to deliver righteousness to the families of those who lost their lives in the most miserable of ways.”

“Whilst I know a court order will not bring their loved ones back, I hope our continued determination to bring those involved in this risky people smuggling operation to justice will bring some comfort.”

“My prayers will always be with the families of the victims.”

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