The Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office wants a sentence of at least 15 years for alleged people-trafficker Vo Van Hong, who is accused of being connected to the deaths of 39 people in a truck in southern England in 2019.
The 45-year-old Vietnamese national is on trial for the deaths of 39 people, who were also Vietnamese nationals, along with 22 others, who the prosecutor wants to be sentenced to terms of between one year and ten years.
Federal prosecutor Ann Lukowiak has stated that Mr Van Hong was the leader of the smuggling network and called for the Criminal Court of Bruges to hand down a 15-year prison sentence along with a fine of €920,000 (£783,365/$1,038,891) in the case, broadcaster RTBF reports.
Lukowiak has alleged that the 45-year-old is the Belgian head of a smuggling network that has links to others in Germany and France and is believed to have been linked to the trafficking of at least 115 people.
Another man named Long is also said to have been a key figure in the network, and the prosecutor has asked that he face a ten-year prison sentence for his role.
Other defendants in the case include lower-level members of the network, such as taxi drivers who helped transport migrants.
People Smugglers Who Murdered 71 Migrants and Sparked the Migrant Crisis Sentenced to 100 Years https://t.co/LMEoNiLphI
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) June 15, 2018
The trial comes just over two years from after the bodies of the 39 migrants, eight women and 31 men, were discovered abandoned in a refrigerated lorry in Grays, Essex in October of 2019, just four days after the vehicle had crossed from Ireland to the United Kingdom.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson commented on the incident at the time saying: “This is an unimaginable tragedy and truly heart-breaking. I know that the thoughts and prayers of all Members [of Parliament] will be with those who lost their lives and their loved ones.”
The trial also comes in the same week that a Latvian people-smuggler was arrested in connection to a similar incident that saw two Syrian migrants left to suffocate to death in a van by the side of the road in Austria earlier this year.
Latvian Police Arrest People Smuggler Linked to Migrant Deaths in Austria https://t.co/OsmhoEQojD
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) December 15, 2021
At the height of the European migrant crisis in 2015, people-smugglers abandoned a truck containing 71 migrants, who were later found dead. The case helped to prompt former Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel to declare that refugees were welcome in Germany, which in turn led to a flood of mass migration.
In 2018, four people-smugglers connected with the case were sentenced to 25 years each for their role in the deaths of the 59 men, eight women and four children.