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Man facing extradition over Essex migrant deaths described in court as ‘ringleader’

Ronan Hughes was arrested last week in Co Monaghan by police in the Republic of Ireland in response to a European Arrest Warrant.

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Ronan Hughes appeared before the High Court in Dublin via videolink (Handout/Essex Police/PA)

Ronan Hughes appeared before the High Court in Dublin via videolink (Handout/Essex Police/PA)

Ronan Hughes appeared before the High Court in Dublin via videolink (Handout/Essex Police/PA)

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 described in court as the “ringleader” of a criminal gang.

Ronan Hughes, from Silverstream, Tyholland in Co Monaghan, appeared before the High Court in Dublin via videolink.

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 lorry container in Essex.

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Police activity in 2019 at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex (Aaron Chown/PA)

Police activity in 2019 at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex (Aaron Chown/PA)

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Police activity in 2019 at the Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays, Essex (Aaron Chown/PA)

Hughes was arrested last week in Co Monaghan by police in the Republic of Ireland in response to a European Arrest Warrant.

A solicitor for Hughes made a bail application on Wednesday, which prosecutors made a number of objections to.

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.

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

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Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Maurice Robinson (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Maurice Robinson (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

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Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Maurice Robinson (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

He previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property at the same court on November 25.

He is due to be sentenced at a later date.

Detective Sergeant James Kirwan, of the Garda’s Extradition Section, told the High Court on Wednesday that he had strong objections to Hughes’s bail.

The court heard that UK authorities described Hughes as the chief organiser of the criminal group involved in bringing illegal migrants into the UK.

The court was also told that Hughes had previous road traffic and smuggling convictions in the Republic of Ireland and in the UK.

He was sentenced to 30 months in prison for smuggling five million cigarettes and evading almost one million euro (£873,000) in excise duty.

Sgt Kirwan also said that very large sums of money were involved in bringing illegal migrants into the UK and that Hughes was the “ringleader”.

The court heard that Hughes had a large number of vehicles and 210,000 euro (£183,400) of his money was frozen across 33 bank accounts relating to Hughes and his family.

The officer also said he had the ability to abscond from justice as he had connections across Europe and the financial means to leave.

The court heard he had interest in a villa in Florida and also used an address in Armagh to register his UK licence and mobile phone.

Sgt Kirwan said he was objecting to bail as Hughes would have knowledge of various ports, and had connections across the UK and Europe.

Hughes told the court he would be willing to abide by a curfew and sign in at a garda station every day, and comply with other terms.

The judge is due to give his ruling on the bail application on Thursday.

PA