BASILDON, England – A truck driver accused in the deaths of 39 migrants has pleaded guilty to plotting to assist illegal immigration.
Maurice Robinson, 25, who was allegedly part of a global smuggling ring, is charged with the manslaughter of a group of men, women and children found dead in a refrigerated trailer outside London last month.
Robinson, who is known as Mo, appeared at the Old Bailey, London’s Central Criminal Court, via video link from Belmarsh prison for a plea hearing.
Wearing a light blue sweater and tan trousers during the hearing, he admitted conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration between May 1, 2018, and Oct. 24, 2019.
The charge states that he plotted with others to do “an act or series of acts which facilitated the commission of a breach of immigration law by various persons.”
He also admitted acquiring criminal property – namely cash – on the same dates and transferring criminal property.
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Robinson, of Laurel Drive in Craigavon, Northern Ireland, was not asked to enter pleas to other charges, including 39 counts of manslaughter.
The bodies of eight women and 31 men were discovered early on Oct. 23 in the trailer attached to Robinson’s Scania cab in an industrial park in Grays.
The victims were later identified as coming from various provinces of Vietnam, with the youngest being two boys aged 15.
Robinson was remanded into custody until a further hearing on Dec. 13.
At least two other men in the U.K. and 11 people in Vietnam have been arrested in connection with the case.
Police in Vietnam earlier this month said the Vietnamese nationals traveled to Russia before being smuggled into Europe.
Contributing: John Bacon, USA TODAY; The Associated Press