Belgium sentences 18 members of human trafficking gang

A Belgian court has sentenced a 45-year-old Vietnamese man to 15 years in prison for being the ringleader in the trafficking of 39 Vietnamese migrants in 2019.

The migrants all died in a truck trailer while being smuggled into Britain, reports Xinhua news agency.

Seventeen others were also found guilty, local media reported.

The gang members have been handed prison sentences ranging from one to 15 years depending on the gravity of their crimes, according to the Belgian press.

Vo Van Hong, the leader of the gang, was also fined 920,000 euros ($1 million ) and his assets worth nearly 2.3 million euros were seized.

The bodies of the 39 victims were discovered in a refrigerated truck on October 23, 2019, near a ferry terminal in Essex, east of London.

They died of asphyxiation and hyperthermia due to heat and lack of oxygen in the confined space of the container.

An investigation revealed that the truck had entered Britain from Anderlecht, a western suburb of Brussels, a day earlier via the port of Zeebrugge.

Since the truck was intercepted, the Belgian police have discovered two hiding places in Anderlecht where the migrants had been hidden.

The clandestine human smuggling network was dismantled by Belgian police in May 2020.

Britain convicted four people involved in the case in January 2021.

They each received prison sentences ranging from 13 years and four months to 27 years.

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