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Vietnamese woman jailed over man's death in UK truck tragedy

By Phan Anh   June 25, 2020 | 05:00 am PT
Vietnamese woman jailed over man's death in UK truck tragedy
Nguyen Thi Tham, 25, stands trial in Nghe An Province, June 25, 2020. Photo courtesy of the Nghe An Newspaper.
A woman from the north central Nghe An Province was sentenced to 15 months in jail Thursday for helping a friend work abroad illegally.

The friend ended up among 39 Vietnamese found dead in a truck near London last year.

The Nghe An People's Court found Nguyen Thi Tham, 25, guilty of organizing and brokering illegal emigration, the province's news website reported.

One of Tham’s male friends, Nguyen Van Hiep, requested her to help him work in Germany, knowing that her brother was working there.

When Tham informed her brother of Hiep's request, the latter gave her the contact details of a woman named Huong in Hanoi.

Huong informed Hiep that it would cost $16,000 to get to Germany through Russia and work there illegally. The man agreed to pay the money.

Hiep left Vietnam for Russia on July 15, 2018. An unidentified man then called Tham and said Hiep had made it to Germany around two weeks later. Tham then went to Hiep’s family to collect the money. His mother gave Tham $15,500 and VND8 million ($342). Tham transferred the $15,500 to the broker, and kept VND8 million for herself.

Hiep, then 24, later tried to get to the U.K., and was one of 39 Vietnamese citizens who froze to death in a refrigerated truck they were being smuggled in. The bodies were found near London on October 23 last year.

Tham was later arrested and investigated for her involvement in Hiep's death.

Tham, who is seven months pregnant, was not authorized to send Vietnamese to work abroad, but still helped her friend do so illegally through brokers, the court noted.

While her friend’s death was not a direct result of her actions, Tham was guilty of activities that had "great political impacts," and deserved strict punishment, the court ruled.

The deaths of the 39 Vietnamese last year had made international headlines. Their identities were revealed by authorities last November. The youngest of the dead were two 15-year-old boys and the oldest was a 44-year-old man. Their remains were brought home later that month.

Twenty one of the victims were from Nghe An Province and 10 from neighboring Ha Tinh. The rest hailed from Quang Binh and Thua Thien-Hue provinces in the central region, and from Hai Duong Province and Hai Phong City in the north.

Northern Irish truck driver Maurice Robinson pleaded guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter related to the deaths in April. Several Vietnamese in Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces have been charged with organizing illegal emigration.

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