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Man denies smuggling 39 Vietnamese migrants who died into UK

An alleged human trafficker has denied that he helped smuggle 39 Vietnamese migrants into the UK who died in the back of a refrigerated lorry.

Six people charged over the deaths of the 39 migrants appeared at the Old Bailey today.

Gazmir Nuzi, 43, was allegedly part of an international gang ferrying non-EU citizens into the country.

He appeared at the Old Bailey on video link and denied one count of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration. 

Also appearing at the Old Bailey, for the first time, today was Eamonn Harrison, 23, who is accused of driving the trailer to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge before it sailed to Purfleet in England.

He is charged alongside Ronan Hughes, 40, with causing the 39 deaths and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Christopher Kennedy, 23, has denied conspiring to commit human trafficking and assisting unlawful immigration between 1 May 2018 and 24 October 2019.

All three spoke only to confirm their names. 

Two other people, Gheorghe Nica and Valentin Colota also made an appearance at the Old Bailey.

Truck driver Maurice Robinson, 25, has admitted killing eight women and 31 men found in the back of his lorry on an industrial estate near Grays, Essex, on October 23.

The victims have been identified as coming from various provinces of Vietnam with the youngest being two boys aged 15.

The discovery was made shortly after the container arrived in Purfleet, having travelled 173 miles from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Jonathan Polnay, prosecuting, said: ‘There are three trips in particular that comprise the substantive part of that conspiracy.

‘There are the events were sadly 39 people were found dead and there are two further trips where Mr Kennedy was the driver and it is one of those trips which Mr Nuzi was in.

‘The lorry would arrive at Purfleet docks were a trailer would be waiting. That would be driven to Collingwood Farm. It is not a built-up area, it is near a golf course.’

The Old Bailey heard prosecutors claim there would be a fleet of vehicles waiting for the migrants at the site.

Gheorghe Nica, 43, denies the manslaughter offences and faces a trial expected to last between six to eight weeks starting on 15 October at the Old Bailey.

He also denies a count of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration between 1 May 2018 and 24 October 2019.

Kennedy, of Corkley Road, Armagh, Northern Ireland, denies assisting unlawful immigration and conspiring to commit a human trafficking offence.

Robinson, of Laurel Drive, Craigavon, Northern Ireland, has admitted 39 counts of manslaughter but denies transferring criminal property.

He has also admitted conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property.

Nica, of Mimosa Close, Langdon Hills, Basildon, Essex, denies 39 counts of manslaughter and one of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.

Alexandru Hanga, 28, of Hobart Road, Tilbury, has admitted conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.

Valentin Calota, 37, of Cossington Road, Birmingham is yet to enter any pleas to a charge of conspiring to smuggle non-EU nationals into the UK, contrary to immigration law, between May 1 2018 and October 24 2019. 

Harrison, 23, from Mayobridge, County Down, is charged with 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration along with Hughes, from County Armagh in the Republic of Ireland.

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