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Court refuses bail to man facing extradition to UK over lorry deaths

Ronan Hughes watched the High Court hearing in Dublin by video link from Cloverhill Prison.

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Ronan Hughes

Ronan Hughes

PA

A general view of Cloverhill court and prison (Brian Lawless/PA)

A general view of Cloverhill court and prison (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Ronan Hughes

A 40-year-old man facing extradition to the UK on 39 charges of manslaughter and a charge of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration has been refused bail by the High Court in Dublin.

Ronan Hughes, from Silverstream, Tyholland, Co Monaghan, wore a mask as he watched proceedings by video link from Cloverhill Prison in Dublin.

He faces 39 charges of manslaughter and a charge of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration in connection with the deaths of 39 migrants found in a refrigerated container in Essex.

Mr Justice Paul Burns said on Thursday there was a “serious risk” he would abscond if he was granted bail.

He said that Hughes has significant connections across Europe through his haulage business.

Mr Justice Burns said that, while Hughes said he would abide by any conditions, he would not grant him bail.

He said aspects of Hughes’ evidence about his financial affairs, movement of lorries and his Northern Irish driving licence was “unconvincing and lacking in credibility”.

The judge added that the the public’s reaction to the deaths was one of “revulsion, outrage and anger”.

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Floral tributes at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, after 39 bodies were found inside a lorry on the industrial estate (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Floral tributes at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, after 39 bodies were found inside a lorry on the industrial estate (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

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Floral tributes at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex, after 39 bodies were found inside a lorry on the industrial estate (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The court was told on Wednesday that Hughes was described as the “ringleader” of a criminal gang involved in smuggling people illegally into the UK.

Detective Sergeant James Kirwan said that Hughes had a large number of vehicles, and that 210,000 euro (£183,400) of his money was frozen across 33 banks accounts connected to Hughes and his family.

On April 8, Maurice Robinson, 25, of Craigavon in Northern Ireland, pleaded guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter at the Old Bailey in London.

Robinson will be sentenced at a later date.

Sgt Kirwan stated that police in the UK said Hughes paid Robinson £25,000 for his involvement in people smuggling.

Mr Justice Burns told the court on Thursday that Hughes has connections in Europe, has a business registered in Bulgaria and has good knowledge of ports.

He also said that he has ties to the Republic as he lives at home with his wife and two children.

He added that his parents live next door to him and that his father is ill.

However, he told the court that the travel restrictions around Covid-19 did not prevent him from absconding as ports were still open.

He also said that Hughes has access to a significant amount of money and this was evidenced by his ability to buy his home without a mortgage and buy a 2019 BMW at the value of 108,000 euro.

The court heard that the car has been seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau.

The 39 Vietnamese nationals were found in a lorry container parked on an industrial estate in Grays on October 23 last year.

Ten teenagers, including two 15-year-old boys, were among those found dead.

Four other men will stand trial at the Old Bailey in connection with the investigation on Monday October 5.

Another man, 22-year-old Eamonn Harrison, from Mayobridge, Co Down in Northern Ireland, is appealing against his extradition from the Republic of Ireland to the UK to face charges related to the Essex lorry discovery.

The charges include 39 charges of manslaughter and a charge of conspiracy to traffic people, as well as conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Hughes was remanded into custody until May 15.

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