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Belgian court sentences man to 15 years in migrant smuggling deaths

Belgian court sentences man to 15 years in migrant smuggling deaths
Police remove a trailer that contained the bodies of 39 Vietnamese migrants who'd been smuggled into the country, in Grays, Essex, Britain, on October 23, 2019. File Photo by Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE

Jan. 19 (UPI) -- A Vietnamese man living in Belgium was sentenced to 15 years in prison Wednesday for smuggling migrants that led to 39 deaths.

The man refused to identify himself but was living in Belgium, according to the Brussels Times. In addition to the prison time, the man was also fined about $1.04 million (920,000 euros) and sentenced to a forfeiture of $2.27 million (2 million euros).

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The 39 migrants were found dead in a truck in at the port of Essex in Britain in October 2019.

The migrants -- between the ages of 15 and 44 -- had been sealed inside a truck trailer for at least 12 hours. It was supposed to be refrigerated but wasn't. They died of asphyxia or hyperthermia.

The alleged ringleaders of the migrant smuggling were Ronan Hughes, 41, operator of the hauling company involved, who was sentenced to 20 years, and Gheorghe Nica, 43, a Romanian mechanic, who was sentenced to 27 years.

The Brussels Times said a Brussels taxi driver who reportedly worked for the human trafficking gang was sentenced to seven years in prison. Several other drivers charged either got suspended sentences or were acquitted.

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