A British driver accused of the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese migrants found dead in a refrigeration truck pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to assist illegal immigration.
Maurice Robinson, 25, appeared via video link at London’s Central Criminal Court from the high-security Belmarsh prison, south-east London, and pleaded guilty to two of the 43 charges levelled against him.
The bodies of eight women and 31 men were found in a refrigeration trailer on an industrial estate east of London on October 23.
The trailer had earlier arrived on a cargo ferry from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.
Robinson, from Northern Ireland, faces 39 charges of manslaughter, conspiracy to traffic people, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and money laundering.
Wearing a blue sweatshirt and talking to confirm his name, age and nationality, Robinson pleaded guilty to conspiring with others “to commit an offence of assisting unlawful immigration”.
He also admitted to acquiring “criminal property namely cash, which he knew or suspected, constituted or represented his own or another benefit from criminal conduct.”
Judge Andrew Eadis ordered that Robinson’s alleged co-conspirators could not be named.
The truck driver did not enter pleas on the other charges and is due to appear before the court again on December 13.
Many of the victims were from a poor region in central Vietnam, where the main source of income is from fishing, farming or factory work.
Many families took on thousands of dollars of debt to send their children to Britain, in the hope they would land good jobs and send money back to pay off the loans.
The incident has laid bare the dangers of illegal migration in Britain, where Vietnamese nationals have often found work in nail bars or illegal cannabis farms.