Alleged ringleader of crime group wanted for deaths of 39 migrants in lorry container flown to UK to face

THE alleged ringleader of an organised crime group wanted for the deaths of 39 migrants in a lorry container last year has been flown to the UK and handed over to authorities. The bodies of eight females and 31 males, the youngest of whom were two 15-year-old boys, were found in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, last October.

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Ronan Hughes is accused of being involved in the deaths of 39 people

Monaghan haulier Ronan Hughes, 40, faces 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration into the UK, including the 39 deceased, between May 1, 2018, and October 24, 2019. The migrants arrived in England on a ferry from Belgium and are believed to have died of oxygen starvation in a sealed refrigeration unit that wasn't turned on.

It is alleged that the deceased were smuggled from Belgium in commercial trailers owned or operated by Mr Hughes and that Mr Hughes "organised, paid for the travel and controlled the drivers who collected the migrants". He is alleged to have played the "controlling role" in the organising and financing of an "organised crime organisation" that conspired to facilitate the illegal entry of people into the UK. If convicted, he is facing a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Hughes, whose Monaghan haulage firm is about seven kilometres from the Co Armagh border, has been wanted in connection with the deaths since the beginning of the investigation and Essex Police made an extraordinary appeal last November for him to hand himself in. He was arrested by detectives from the Garda extradition unit in April at his bungalow in Silverstream, Tyholland, Co Monaghan, on foot of a European Arrest Warrant issued by UK authorities earlier that month. His home appeared to have been built to a "high specification" and was financed "without a mortgage", according to the High Court.

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'INCREDIBLE'

EUR6.9 million Lotto jackpot winning ticket sold in petrol station in Cork The High Court ordered Mr Hughes' surrender to UK authorities on June 12 and, moments later, the court was told Mr Hughes would not be appealing and wanted to be extradited "as soon as possible". Garda sources confirmed Mr Hughes was officially surrendered yesterday.

The court heard Mr Hughes has a number of previous convictions, including a conviction for smuggling EUR5million worth of cigarettes into the UK in 2009, for which he received a 30-month sentence for evading excise duty "just shy of one million pounds".

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