NI man convicted in Essex caravan tragedy has been forced to pay £6,000 in compensation to 39 families

A Northern Ireland man convicted of his involvement in the people smuggling operation that led to the deaths of 39 Vietnamese in the Essex caravan tragedy has been ordered to pay £6,000 in compensation to their families.

Orry driver Christopher Kennedy, 25, of Corkley Road, Darkley, Co Armagh, has been sentenced to seven years in prison at the Old Bailey for conspiracy to assist illegal immigration.

It followed the deaths of the victims, aged 15 to 44, who suffocated while being transported by ferry from Zeebrugge to Purfleet in Essex in October 2019.

Judge Mark Lucraft QC has now ordered the seizure of available money in his bank account after the court heard he profited from his £67,050.65 crime.

However, he only had £6,094.18 in his Bank of Ireland account, which was duly confiscated and ordered to top up those paid in compensation to the families of the 39 victims.

Kennedy, from Co Armagh, Northern Ireland, sat in the dock and did not respond during the brief hearing.

The four men who were arrested following the investigation were ordered to pay a total of £30,000 of their criminal proceeds after it was revealed they had made substantial sums of money from the exploitation of Vietnamese nationals.

Maurice Robinson, 26, of Laurel Drive, Craigavon, Northern Ireland, has been sentenced to 13 years and four months in prison on 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to assist illegal immigration and acquisition of criminal property.

Valentin Calota, 38, of Cossingham Road, Birmingham, has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for conspiracy to assist illegal immigration.

Alexandru-Ovidiu Hangu, 29, of Hobart Road, Tilbury, was sentenced to three years in prison for conspiracy to assist illegal immigration.

The lead investigator, Detective Chief Inspector Louise Metcalfe, said the men thought they could earn a comfortable living by risking the lives of vulnerable people.

“What they did was unethical and dangerous, and I applaud the courts’ order prohibiting them from withholding monies obtained from ill-gotten means.

“These orders show once again how far we at Essex Police will go to bring justice to the families of those who have tragically lost their lives.

“While I know a court order will not bring loved ones back, I hope that our continued determination to bring those involved in this dangerous human smuggling operation to justice will provide some comfort.

“My thoughts will always be with the families of the victims.”

CPS Special Prosecutor Darren Fox added: “Maurice Robinson, Christopher Kennedy, Valentin Calota and Alexandru-Ovidiu Hangu benefited from people smuggling into the country, a practice that resulted in 39 people dying in the most appalling circumstances.

“The CPS, working with police financial investigators, has determined that the four, along with other co-conspirators, benefited from this incident. However, we will never know the true extent of the benefit from this tragedy.

“The confiscation order issued by the judge reflects the assets available to the three defendants. We will continue to consistently enforce the confiscation order and ensure the money is paid to the bereaved as compensation.” NI man convicted in Essex caravan tragedy has been forced to pay £6,000 in compensation to 39 families

Fry Electronics Team

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