Russian smuggling linked to 39 bodies found in truck in Britain

John Bacon, USA TODAY

Two weeks after the shocking discovery of 39 bodies in a container truck in Britain, police in Vietnam on Tuesday announced another arrest in the case and described a scenario where Vietnamese nationals were traveling to Russia before being smuggled into Europe.

The bodies of 31 men and eight women, all believed to be Vietnamese nationals, were discovered Oct. 23 in the refrigerated container at an industrial site in Grays, 20 miles east of London. Only a handful of identifications have been determined, adding to the anguish of villagers in two Vietnamese provinces who suspect their loved ones are among the dead.

Vietnam's public security minister, Gen. To Lam, confirmed this week that the ministry’s mission had arrived in London with DNA samples and documents.

“If a Vietnamese national is identified, we will try to bring them home in the fastest way possible,” Lam told Vietnam's state media.

Vo Ngoc Chuyen, brother of Vo Ngoc Nam, speaks to media at his home in Yen Thanh district, Nghe An province, Vietnam, on Oct. 27, 2019.

Police in the central provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh received dozens of reports of missing persons after the tragic discovery of the bodies made global news. Some of those reported missing were later found locally or in other countries, but others remain missing as their families wait in agony for news.

Nguyen Huu Cau, chief of police in Nghe An, said one of those arrested used to live in Russia and is accused of collecting thousands of dollars from people who then traveled there before he allegedly smuggled them to Germany and then shuttled them to a third country.

Police gather at the site where 39 bodies were found inside a truck container at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, United Kingdom, on Oct. 23, 2019.

Authorities have yet to determine – or at least to reveal – the chain of events that resulted in the deaths.

“Based on what we learn from the suspects, we will actively launch investigations to fight and eradicate these rings that bring people illegally to Britain,” Nguyen Huu Cau told the official Vietnam News Agency.

Eleven people have been arrested in Vietnam for organizing illegal migration of villagers to the U.K., where Northern Ireland truck driver Maurice Robinson, 25, has been charged with 39 counts of manslaughter in the case. Another man from Northern Ireland, Eamon Harrison, 22, is accused of delivering the trailer to a port in Belgium on its way to England.

Police were also hunting for Northern Ireland brothers Ronan and Christopher Hughes, who are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and people trafficking.

In Vietnam, families wait and weep as the investigation drags on.

Nguyen Dình Gia says authorities told him they believe his son, Nguyen Dinh Luong, was one of the victims. Luong had been working as a waiter in France, Gia told the online newspaper Zing but wanted to go to England to earn more money.

Gia said the family paid thousands to help their son pay for the dangerous, clandestine trip.

“Now all we want is for his body to be brought home, but we don’t even have the money to do that,” Gia said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 39 bodies found in truck: Vietnam says migrants smuggled out of Russia