Man jailed over 39 lorry deaths to be deported

Custody image of Marius Draghici
Marius Draghici was referred to as the "right-hand man" to one of the people smuggling gang's ringleaders [Essex Police]

A Romanian man jailed over the deaths of 39 people in a lorry trailer is to be deported without paying a penny to his victims' families.

Marius Draghici, 51, fled the UK after the Vietnamese nationals died in the airtight sealed container as it was transported by ferry from Belgium to Purfleet, Essex, in October 2019.

Said to be a "right-hand man" in a long-running people smuggling ring, Draghici was arrested in Romania in August 2022 and extradited to the UK.

He was jailed for 12 years after pleading guilty at the Old Bailey to 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration. A confiscation hearing at the Old Bailey was told he would be deported "shortly".

A total of 11 people have been convicted in the UK over the case.

The Vietnamese men, women and children had paid a fee rising to £13,000 for what was promised as a "VIP" route to Europe.

A montage of those found dead inside the lorry in October 2019
Many of the victims hoped to find better paid work in the UK [BBC]

A confiscation hearing at the Old Bailey earlier heard that Draghici would not be pursued under the Proceeds of Crime Act - which looks to recover money gained by criminally means.

"Following an investigation, no assets have been discovered," prosecutor Ben Holt said.

"In any event, it is understood Mr Draghici will be deported shortly and therefore no proceedings are to be pursued."

The defendant attended the brief hearing by video link from HMP Stocken in the East Midlands.

It was understood he would serve the remainder of his prison sentence in Romania.

Aerial view of the lorry
The bodies were found inside a lorry container at Waterglade Industrial Park [PA Media]

Sentencing last year, Mr Justice Garnham said Draghici was an "essential cog" in a criminal conspiracy which made "astonishing profits out of the exploitation of people desperate to get to the UK".

To date, more than £283,000 in ill-gotten gains has been ordered to be paid by other defendants as compensation to the victims' families.

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