A Romanian man who took part in international human smuggling has been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for the deaths of 39 migrants from Vietnam who suffocated in a trailer.
Marius Mihai Draghici was the right-hand man to an operation that profited from trafficking people trying to get to the United Kingdom, Justice Neil Garnham said, according to Fox News.
Victims paid about $16,770 for “VIP service” to travel to England in 2019. They tried to punch a hole in the container truck with a metal pole when temperatures inside the container rose above 100 degrees.
The container was aboard a ship on a ferry from Belgium to Purfleet, England.
According to reports, a young mother wrote a message that was never sent: "Maybe going to die in the container. Cannot breathe anymore."
Family members of the 15-year-old victim said the teenager was on his way to the U.K. to live with his parents. He wanted to be a hairdresser.
"We did not believe it was the truth until we saw his body with our own eyes," his father said.
"We felt numb, and that feeling lasted for many weeks later."
Their final hours "must have entailed unimaginable suffering and anguish," prosecutor Bill Emlyn Jones said Tuesday.
A total of 28 men, eight women, and three children from ages 15 to 44 suffocated in the container. Most were from the Nghe An province in north-central Vietnam.
Draghici, 50, pleaded guilty last month to 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
Draghici was "shocked and horrified with what occurred," defense lawyer Gillian Jones said in court. He, however, fled to Romania, where he was arrested.
Ringleader Gheorghe Nica, 46, was also arrested. He has been sentenced to prison for manslaughter.
Draghici is the fifth person to be sentenced in the human trafficking case. In 2021, four others, including Nica, were arrested and sentenced to prison terms.
In Belgium, another 18 people were convicted of crimes related to human trafficking.
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.