Death of 39 Vietnamese in Grays: Men ordered to pay back £30,000

FOUR men who were jailed following our investigation into the tragic deaths of 39 Vietnamese nationals in October 2019 have been ordered to pay back more than £30,000 of their criminal earnings.

Maurice Robinson, 26, of Laurel Drive, Craigavon, Northern Ireland, was sentenced to 13 years and four months in prison for 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property.

The bodies were discovered in the lorry in the early hours of 23 October 2019

Christopher Kennedy, 24, of Corkley Road, Darkley, County Armagh, was sentenced to seven years in prison for conspiracy to assist illegal immigration.

Valentin Calota, 38, of Cossingham Road, Birmingham, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for conspiracy to assist illegal immigration.

Alexandru-Ovidiu Hangu, 29, of Hobart Road, Tilbury, was sentenced to three years in prison for conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.

During our investigation, it was discovered that significant sums of money were made from this exploitation.

Our officers worked with the CPS to pursue illegal finances and ensure that no one profits from this tragedy.

Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) hearings – or confiscation hearings – have since been held at the Old Bailey in London.

Robinson was ordered to pay back £21,262, whilst Kennedy was told he must pay back £6,094.

Calota was told he must pay £1,137 and Hangu must pay £3,000.

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Louise Metcalfe, said: “These men thought they could make a comfortable living by putting the lives of vulnerable people at risk.

“What they did was immoral and dangerous, and I welcome the order made by the courts that prohibits them from retaining money generated through ill-gotten means.

“These orders once again demonstrate the lengths we will go to at Essex Police to deliver justice to the families of those who lost their lives in the most tragic of ways.

“Whilst I appreciate a court order will not bring their loved ones back, I hope our ongoing determination to bring those involved in this dangerous people smuggling operation to justice brings some comfort.

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

Specialist Prosecutor Darren Fox, from the CPS, added: “Maurice Robinson, Christopher Kennedy, Valentin Calota and Alexandru-Ovidiu Hangu profited from smuggling people into the country, a practice which ended in 39 people dying in the most horrible circumstance.

“The CPS, working with police financial investigators, found the four profited alongside other co-conspirators from this incident. However, we will never know the true extent of the benefit from this tragedy.

“The Confiscation Order set by the Judge reflects the assets available to the three defendants. We will continue to enforce robustly, the confiscation order and ensure that the money will be paid as compensation to the bereaved families”.

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