A ROMANIAN people smuggler jailed over the deaths of 39 people in a lorry trailer in south Essex will be deported without paying a penny to his victims’ families.

Marius Mihai Draghici, 51, fled the UK after the Vietnamese nationals died in the airtight sealed container as it was being transported by ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Purfleet in October 2019.

In August 2022, Draghici, who was said to be a “right-hand man” in a long-running people-smuggling ring, was detained in Romania and extradited back to the UK.

Last year, he pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and was jailed for 12 years and seven months.

On Wednesday, prosecutor Ben Holt told a confiscation hearing before Judge Mark Lucraft KC that Draghici would not be pursued for proceeds of crime.

He told the Old Bailey: “Following an investigation, no assets have been discovered and in any event it is understood Mr Draghici will be deported shortly and therefore no proceedings are to be pursued.”

The defendant had joined the brief hearing by video link from Stocken category C prison in the East Midlands and declined the services of a translator.

It is understand that he will serve the remainder of his prison sentence in Romania following his deportation.

Sentencing last year, Mr Justice Garnham had said Draghici was an “essential cog” in a criminal conspiracy which made “astonishing profits out of the exploitation of people desperate to get to the UK”.

In all, 11 men have been convicted of their involvement in the lucrative people-smuggling ring.

In addition to Draghici, four other men were jailed for between 13 and 27 years for the manslaughters of the men, women and children.

They are: Ringleader Gheorghe Nica, 47, of Basildon, Essex; haulier boss Ronan Hughes, 44, of Armagh; Maurice Robinson, 29, of Craigavon, who found the bodies; and Eamonn Harrison, 27, of County Down; who had collected the victims on the continent.

To date, more than £283,000 in ill-gotten gains has been ordered to be paid by defendants as compensation to the victims’ families.