A Vietnamese teenager accused of being a key “organiser” in the fatal people smuggling operation which saw 39 migrants suffocate in the back of a container on its way to Essex has lost his appeal against extradition.
Ngo Sy Tai, also known as Hung Sy Truong, is wanted in Belgium over allegations he ran a so-called “safe house” for his fellow Vietnamese nationals in Anderlecht, Brussels.
Joel Smith, representing Ngo, appealed against extradition and cited a lack of detail in the charges against his client, meaning he was unable to sufficiently advise him.
But District Judge Mark Jabbitt, in his written ruling handed down at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, said Ngo should be extradited.
He faces up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted over the operation, an extradition hearing at the same court heard last month.
The victims, 10 of whom are said to have passed through Ngo’s four-storey terraced safe house on a quiet backstreet, had hoped for a better life in Britain when they agreed to pay up to £13,000 a head for a “VIP” smuggling service.
The court heard Ngo, who would therefore have been just 16 at the time of the deaths, is accused by Belgian authorities of being a member of a criminal organisation, being involved in human trafficking and using forged documents.
Outlining the case for the Belgian authorities, Daniel Sternberg said: “He (Ngo) is described as an organiser for the people-trafficking organisation, arranging accommodation and transit for money.
“The vulnerable position of the people who paid money to be smuggled was abused and minors were also abused.
“A criminal attitude on the part of Ngo and others amounted to gaining money with total disregard to the physical and psychological impact on the victim.”
Mr Sternberg said the migrants kept at the safe house were “forbidden to leave, and were obliged to be silent during their stay”.
He said Ngo also arranged for taxis to take the Vietnamese migrants to a location near the France-Belgium border before they were put on to the lorry bound for the UK.
Mr Sternberg said there was “sufficient evidence” to bring a case against Ngo, potentially this summer.
Responding to the ruling, Miles Bonfield from the National Crime Agency, which arrested Ngo, said: “The arrest… demonstrates our continued determination to get justice for the families of those who so tragically died in October 2019.
“People smuggling is a horrendous trade where those involved treat migrants as a commodity to be profited from and do not care about their safety or wellbeing. There can be no greater example of that than this case.”
The matter will now be sent to the Home Office for the Secretary of State to rubber-stamp extradition, pending any appeal by Ngo’s legal team.