A Vietnamese man who oversaw a network of illegal cannabis farms in the United Kingdom was sentenced to 11 years in prison there after being accused of smuggling migrants into the country to work in the fields, state media reported Wednesday.
Tuan Anh Do, 55, was first arrested in 2017 at a restaurant he ran in the industrial town of Blackburn, following an extensive police investigation that uncovered several cannabis plantations throughout northwestern England.
Every year, scores of vulnerable and poor Vietnamese migrants endure horrific conditions and risk their lives as they are smuggled into Europe to earn a living at restaurants, nail salons and farms.
In hearings this week at a criminal court in Manchester, Do was said to have coordinated with other smugglers to bring migrants from France to work at their cannabis operations and had profited greatly, earning an estimated $1.3 million annually.
A substantial amount of cannabis, along with paperwork believed to be for a new farm, was also discovered in his car.
“These actions are barbaric and inhumane,” said judge Elizabeth Nicolls in a ruling.
“Those who participate have no regard for who they transport, they are simply objects to be used for financial gain.”
The U.K.-based National Crime Agency (NCA), which led investigations to bring down Do and his inner circle, said that he not only played a leading role but had actively “taken advantage” of lowly-paid migrant workers and laborers wanting better futures outside of Vietnam.
“People smugglers put lives at risk and see migrants as a commodity to be profited from,” said NCA spokesman Jon Sayers. “They have no care for the safety of those they move and we’ve seen the tragic consequences.”
The dangerous routes received global attention in 2019 with the grisly discovery of 39 bodies in a refrigerated container of a truck in southeast England. All the victims were Vietnamese.
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