A man wanted in Belgium on suspicion of smuggling a number of Vietnamese migrants found dead in a lorry in Essex has been arrested by the National Crime Agency.

The man, who was located by NCA officers at an address in the Redditch area of Worcestershire, was apprehended on the evening of Tuesday 15 December on a European Arrest Warrant issued by a Belgian investigating judge.

He is now subject to extradition proceedings and has been remanded in custody until a hearing due on 12 March 2021.

The arrested man, who can’t be named for legal reasons, is wanted by Belgian prosecutors who allege he was a member of a criminal network involved in large scale organised people smuggling.

He is suspected of having been involved in transporting at least ten of the 39 found dead in Essex, moving them from a safe house in Anderlecht, Brussels, in taxis to a location near the French/Belgian border before they were put onto the lorry.

After hearing the migrants had died, it is alleged the man fled Belgium and initially went to Germany before moving to the UK.

Details of the arrest can now be released following the conclusion of a trial at the Old Bailey which saw four people found guilty of their involvement in a people smuggling ring which led to the deaths of 39 Vietnamese men, women and children in October last year. 

Head of Organised Immigration Crime Operations for the NCA, Miles Bonfield, said:

“This arrest is hugely significant in terms of what led to the deaths of those migrants, and through close working with our Belgian partners we have been able to track this man down so he can face prosecution in Belgium.

“People smuggling is a vile trade where those involved treat migrants as a commodity to be profited from.

“It requires an international response and, as this case shows, we are working closely with partners in the UK, Europe and beyond to target, disrupt and dismantle these organised criminal networks.”

21 December 2020