Convicted people-smugglers ordered to pay over £30,000 in confiscation orders
Four convicted people smugglers, who assisted in the unlawful immigration of 39 people from Vietnam who died in the back of a lorry in Essex, have been ordered to pay £31,493.47 in confiscation orders.
Maurice Robinson was convicted to assist unlawful immigrations and acquiring criminal property offences and was imprisoned for 13 years and 4 months.
Christopher Kennedy was jailed for seven years for conspiring to assist unlawful immigration, whilst Valentin Calota was jailed for four and a half years for the same offence. All three were sentenced on the 22nd January 2021.
Also Alexandru-Ovidiu Hangu was jailed for three years after admitting conspiring to assist unlawful immigration in July 2021.
All four were part of an illegal people-smuggling operation of Vietnamese men, women and children, aged between 15 and 44, who were found dead on 22 October 2019. The victims died of oxygen starvation after being sealed in an air-tight lorry container for nearly 12 hours.
During the investigation, which saw eight people convicted, it was discovered that significant sums of money were made from this exploitation. The CPS worked with the investigators to pursue illegal finances and ensure that no one profits from this horrific tragedy.
Darren Fox of the CPS said: “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 circumstances.
“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 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: “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.”
The CPS is committed to working with law enforcement to identify and prosecute those that exploit and profit from people trafficking.
After conviction the CPS can ask the court to make a confiscation order where the judge will consider two things:
- The total financial ‘benefit’ that a defendant made from their criminal activity
- The total value of the assets the defendant currently has to pay their order, known as the ‘available amount’.
When the available amount is less than the benefit amount, the defendant is only ordered to pay the amount they have available.
Notes to editors
- Darren Fox is a specialist prosecutor for CPS Proceeds of Crime Division
- Where a defendant refuses to pay their confiscation order in a timely way, CPS Proceeds of Crime Division can invite the court to impose an additional default sentence on them of up to 14 years' imprisonment (without possibility of release at half-time as in a normal prison sentence). The full debt continues to be in force until it is paid, and interest is charged against it at 8% (the civil judgement debt rate)
- In the last five years over £565 million has been recovered by CPS-obtained confiscation orders, ensuring that thousands of convicted criminals cannot profit from their offending. £124m of that amount has been returned to victims of crime, by way of compensation
- Once proceedings against the defendants are over the available assets will be paid to the bereaved families as compensation
- Robinson: Benefit from criminality of £50,000.00 and available amount of £21,262.00
- Hanga: Benefit of £83,552.00 and available amount of £3,000.00
- Calota: Benefit of £1,137.29 and available amount of £1,137.29
- Kennedy: Benefit of £67,058.65 and available amount of £6,094.18
- The benefit represents the amount the defendants individually gained from the offending and available amount is the money that must be paid to satisfy the confiscation order.