People smuggler ordered to pay £65k to Vietnamese families

A people smuggler who was a significant player in the conspiracy which led to the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in Grays has been ordered to pay a total of £65,157.65 to victims’ families.

Gheorghe Nica was previously jailed for 27 years after being found guilty of 39 counts of manslaughter and human trafficking.

Nica was part of an illegal people-smuggling operation, which resulted in those deaths in 2019.

He was responsible for giving lorry driver Maurice Robinson his instructions in the hours before the tragic discovery was made in the early hours of October 23 2019.

The 46-year-old, previously of Mimosa Close, Langdon Hills, is the final defendant in this series of proceeds of crime confiscation hearings.

At this stage, those convicted have been ordered to pay a total of £283,802.58 as compensation to the families of the 39 victims. Some aspects of that sum remain part of ongoing court proceedings.

Detective Chief Inspector Louise Metcalfe, the Essex Police senior investigating officer, said: “For more than four years, we have never lost sight of the far-reaching impact the events of October 2019 have had – here in Essex and, most acutely, in Vietnam.

“Our priority has always been to ensure that those directly involved in the tragic journey overnight between October 22 and 23 are caught, prosecuted and ultimately punished.

“But we have also vowed to not stop there – to pursue each of them for the ill-gotten criminal gains and we have worked alongside the CPS to ensure the families are paid the maximum amount possible as a result of the proceeds of these crimes.”

Darren Fox, a specialist prosecutor for CPS Proceeds of Crime Division, said: “Nica profited from smuggling people into the country, which ended in 39 people dying in the most horrific circumstances.

“The CPS worked with the police financial investigators to identify Nica’s criminal benefit from this tragedy and what assets he currently holds.

“The Confiscation Order set by the Judge reflects all the assets available to Nica. He also made a Compensation Order for that amount to be paid to the families of the victims.

“We will continue to ensure that money will be paid by defendants for the proceeds of these awful crimes.”