French, Belgian authorities charge suspects in October UK lorry deaths


Thirteen suspects over the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in a refrigerated lorry in Britain on October 23, 2020, have been arrested by French police and charged with people trafficking, a judicial source said Saturday, May 30.

Six of the suspects, mainly Vietnamese and French nationals, were held on Tuesday in the Paris region after the alleged key figure in a ring of smugglers was caught in Germany.

Thirteen others have also been arrested in Belgium on Tuesday in an international police operation, and are now facing charges.

The driver of the lorry has already admitted manslaughter but Tuesday’s operation targeted the smugglers suspected of organising the migrants’ journey from Asia.

A suspect, arrested in Germany’s Upper Rhine region and whose nationality was not revealed, is a 29-year-old man nicknamed “The Bald Duke,” sources told AFP.

“He could be the head of the network on the French side,” a source close to the investigation said.

The 13 suspects arrested by French police over the deaths have been charged with people trafficking while six of the group have also been charged with manslaughter.

The 13 indicted in France also face charges of membership of a criminal organisation and all but one was put in custody.

Eleven of the 13 suspects in Belgium have already been charged by a judge in Bruges with people trafficking, membership of a criminal organisation and fraud, according to Belgian prosecutors.

The investigation found that the migrants who died were loaded into the truck in northern France, and that the network continued to operate even after the tragedy, charging up to €20,000 to cross from France to Britain.

Investigation sources told AFP the group caught in France was believed to have housed the migrants and then sent them from Paris to the north by taxi.

The driver of the lorry, Maurice Robinson from Northern Ireland, last month pleaded guilty to manslaughter over the 39 deaths.

Four other men are on trial in London over the tragedy, while another man, Ronan Hughes, is facing extradition from Ireland to Britain on 39 counts of manslaughter and one of conspiracy to commit unlawful immigration. (Source: CNA)