Man arrested in crackdown on Vietnamese people-smuggling network in Britain

Operation is part of a crackdown into migrants being hidden in lorries

British police are launching a crackdown on criminals who smuggle migrants in lorries. AFP
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A man has been arrested in Birmingham during a crackdown on a gang that trafficks people to Britain from Vietnam.

Last month, officials in Belgium jailed the Vietnamese ringleader of a people-smuggling gang over his role in the deaths of 39 migrants who suffocated in the back of a lorry.

The National Crime Agency launched an operation in Liverpool, northern England, on Tuesday.

Mai Van Nguyen, 32, from Birmingham, was arrested. He has been charged with conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering.

“This is the latest phase of an ongoing investigation into the activities of a significant smuggling network, bringing people illegally into the UK and then laundering the profits,” NCA Branch Operations Manager Paul Boniface said.

“These groups treat people as a commodity to be profited from and are quite happy to put lives at risk. We are determined to do all we can to stop them.”

Several arrests have been made in Birmingham and in Bolton, near Manchester. Two other men face criminal charges.

The NCA leads the law enforcement response to the organised criminality involved in people-trafficking and smuggling.

It has about 50 open investigations into networks or individuals in the top tier of organised immigration crime or human trafficking.

Seven people have also been convicted in the UK over the deaths of the 39 people, who had travelled from Vietnam in the hope of better lives in Europe. Others have been convicted in Vietnam.

Last month, a judge in Bruges, Belgium, ruled that Vo Van Hong had played a key role in moving 15 of the victims across Europe to safe houses in Brussels before their final ill-fated journey from northern France by lorry and ferry, and jailed him for 15 years.

The migrants were found dead in the lorry trailer in Grays, south-east England, in 2019.

The 31 men and eight women aged between 15 and 44 would have suffered “excruciatingly painful” deaths, a British judge has said.

Updated: February 10, 2022, 4:42 PM