Australia Mass truck: haul in France and Belgium, 26 arrests

02:25  29 may  2020
02:25  29 may  2020 Source:   20minutes.fr

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Dans le port belge de Zeebrugge, le 24 octobre 2019 © KURT DESPLENTER In the Belgian port of Zeebrugge, October 24, 2019

The investigation into the death of 39 Vietnamese migrants in a refrigerated truck there are seven months in England got a boost with the arrest of 26 people in France and Belgium during an international police operation.

Thirteen people were arrested Tuesday in Belgium and thirteen others the same day in France, announced Wednesday the Belgian federal prosecutor's office and the Paris prosecutor's office in press releases.

This is the first major development in these two countries whose courts are investigating this drama jointly with those of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

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The container in which the 39 bodies were discovered on October 23 in Grays, east of London, came from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge, and some victims had stayed in Belgium before their departure, recalled the Belgian prosecution.

A source close to the file in France also told AFP that the victims - 31 men and eight women, all Vietnamese - had embarked in the container in the north of France before the transit through Zeebrugge.

The investigation, coordinated by the judicial cooperation body Eurojust, gave rise to 16 searches on Tuesday in Belgium, mainly in Brussels, and thirteen people in total were arrested: eleven Vietnamese and two Moroccans, it was said. on the Belgian side. Five migrants considered to be victims were also discovered on this occasion, said Eurojust.

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There were 13 other arrests in France, in the Paris region, said the Paris prosecutor's office.

People in police custody are also suspected of taking part in a vast trafficking in human beings within the Paris-Brussels-London triangle.

The prosecution did not specify the nationalities but sources close to the file, these suspects are mainly Vietnamese.

"The network set up by traffickers is suspected of having probably transported up to several dozen people every day for several months," said the Belgian federal prosecutor's office.

- Eldorado -

"The organization focused on the transport of refugees from Asia, in particular from Vietnam", it is added, and it is "suspected" of having allowed the transport of the 39 migrants discovered dead on October 23 by British police in an industrial estate in Grays.

This drama, with international repercussions, has highlighted the dangers of illegal immigration, with unscrupulous traffickers taking advantage of the vulnerability of candidates promised to odd jobs sometimes in a state of semi-slavery at their place of destination.

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Last month, an arrest had already taken place in Ireland: that of the alleged organizer of the rotation of drivers participating in the traffic.

Furthermore, in the British investigation, five people have already been charged, including Maurice Robinson, 25, the driver of the truck intercepted in Grays. In early April, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a London court.

In Belgium, five of the thirteen suspects arrested had already been presented to an investigating judge in Bruges (north) Wednesday at midday.

They were charged with "trafficking in human beings with aggravating circumstances, membership in a criminal organization and forgery and use of forgery" before being imprisoned, the federal prosecutor's office added.

Due to its geographic location, Belgium is often used as a rear base by traffickers seeking to monetize the passage of illegal immigrants to Great Britain, considered an El Dorado especially for the flexibility of its labor market.

Each candidate for the passage paid to this Vietnamese sector between 15 and 20,000 euros, according to the source familiar with the matter.

This source noted that the network remained active even after the mass truck episode and during the period of confinement linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

Suspects arrested in Belgium face penalties ranging from one year to 15 years of imprisonment and "a fine of 1,000 to 150,000 euros per identified victim", according to the Belgian prosecution.

bur-mad / fmi / oaa

506 kilos of shisha tobacco intercepted in the Oise by customs .
© LP Contraband tobacco is, like drugs, one of the priorities of customs. Nighttime haul for the customs officers of Nogent-sur-Oise. On May 29, around 2 a.m., they stopped a vehicle in the town of Monceaux containing a cargo of 506 kilograms of shisha tobacco intended for contraband in Ile-de-France.

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