A lorry driver accused over the deaths of 39 migrants has pleaded guilty to plotting to assist illegal immigration.
Maurice Robinson, 25, who was allegedly part of a "global smuggling ring", is charged with the manslaughter of a group of Vietnamese nationals after they were found dead in a refrigerated trailer attached to his lorry.
The bodies of eight women and 31 men – the youngest of whom were two 15-year-old boys – were discovered in the Waterglade industrial park in Grays, Essex on October 23.
Robinson, known as Mo, appeared at the Old Bailey via video link from Belmarsh prison for a plea hearing to confirm his identity and British nationality.
During the hearing before Mr Justice Edis, he admitted conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration between May 1 2018 and October 24 2019.
The charge states that he plotted with others to do “an act or series of acts which facilitated the commission of a breach of immigration law by various persons”.
He also admitted acquiring criminal property, namely cash, on the same dates.
The defendant, of Craigavon in Northern Ireland, was not asked to enter pleas to other charges which include 39 counts of manslaughter, conspiracy to commit human trafficking (between May 1 2018 and October 24 2019) and transferring criminal property.
The human trafficking charge alleges that Robinson “arranged or facilitated the travel of other persons into the UK with a view to their being exploited”.
He was remanded in custody until a further hearing on December 13.
Meanwhile lorry driver Christopher Kennedy has appeared in court charged with human trafficking offences over the deaths.
The 23-year-old was arrested in the early hours of Friday morning in Beaconsfield, and has been remanded in custody to face court on December 13.
It is alleged that he conspired to arrange or facilitate the travel of other people with a view to exploitation.
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