Ukrainian people traffickers sentenced

The two leaders of a 15-member Ukrainian human trafficking gang have been sentenced to 7 years in prison and fines totalling 3 million euro. The gang had smuggled 543 people from Ukraine through Belgium into the United Kingdom.

More than three-quarters of the 3 million euro fine is suspended. The 632,000 euro the gang made from the human trafficking is to be paid back in full.

The Judicial Authorities came onto the gang trail after a Lithuanian lorry driver was murdered at the Drongen (East Flanders) service area on 7 May 2015. His body was found later at the lorry park along the E17 motorway in Waasmunster (also East Flanders).

The trucker was a member of gang but was murdered as a result of a dispute between gang members. An investigation was launched. A short time afterwards two suspects were detained in possession of 13 Polish passports.

Raids were carried out at two safe houses in Antwerp and Vorst (Brussels) on 29 January last year. There a total of 300 Polish, Lithuanian, Estonian and Czech identity cards were found and confiscated.

The gang was most resourceful even employing a hairdresser to ensure that those being trafficked looked like the photograph on their forged Polish identity documents.

Public Prosecutor a Lukowiak told VRT News that “They got a visa in Ukraine that enabled then to enter the Schengen Zone without difficulty”

"The gang brought them to Belgium in mini-busses. Lorry drivers then took them from safe houses in Belgium to the UK. Once over the Channel the Ukrainians had to give back their false Polish passports.

At least 542 people entered the UK illegally in this way. Each paid the gang between 3,000 and 4,000 euro plus costs for their fake documents and there board and lodgings at the safe houses.

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