British man pleads guilty to immigration offences after 39 truck deaths

LONDON — A British truck driver charged with the manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese nationals found dead in a truck near London last month pleaded guilty on Monday to plotting to assist unlawful immigration and to acquiring criminal property.

Appearing in court by video link from Belmarsh Prison in east London, Maurice Robinson, 25, from Northern Ireland, was not asked to enter a plea to 41 other charges, including 39 counts of manslaughter.

No trial date was set and Robinson is next due in court on Dec. 13.

The victims, 31 men and boys and eight women, were found on Oct. 23 on an industrial estate in Grays, Essex, not far from docks on the River Thames. The oldest of the victims was 44 while three were aged under 18, including two 15-year-old boys.

The discovery of the bodies has shone a spotlight on the illicit human smuggling trade that sees poor people from Asia, the Middle East and Africa make perilous journeys, often after paying huge sums to criminal gangs, to western Europe.

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