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Hungarian investigator: 8 arrested in truck asphyxiation of 71 migrants last year
Last Updated: 2016-10-13 08:01 | Xinhua
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Police have arrested eight suspects in the suffocation deaths of 71 migrants in August 2015, and are still seeking three truck drivers, Zoltan Boross of the Hungarian National Bureau of Investigations told a Wednesday news conference here.

Boross said an organized group of people smugglers were responsible for the fatalities, and had probably known that the 71 victims, who were packed into the back of a sealed refrigerator truck registered in Hungary, were dead before the truck crossed into Austria where local police discovered the bodies.

Austrian police began the investigation but turned it over to the Hungarians after it became clear the vehicle had Hungarian plates and had come from Hungary.

The ringleader for the smugglers was an Afghan citizen who had received asylum in Hungary, he said.

The others were all Bulgarian nationals, he added, including one Bulgarian-Lebanese dual citizen, who handled the truck purchases.

The three men still at large are also Bulgarians and had been driving for the smugglers, Boross said.

The group, Boross said, bought up used vehicles and had been transporting groups of refugees on a more or less daily basis since the start of February 2015.

They collected passengers in Serbia, had them walk over the border into Hungary, where they loaded anywhere between seven and 100 people into trucks. They then drove to Austria or Germany, collecting between 1,200 and 1,500 euros (1,320 and 1,650 U.S. dollars) per person to take them from Serbia, or 4,000 to 6,000 euros to take them from Afghanistan to Germany.

Police said they had smuggled 1,106 people along this route before the fatalities that triggered the manhunt. Police have clear-cut evidence of 25 deliveries.

Four of the men are being charged with homicide as part of an organized crime group, while the others will be charged as organized people smugglers.

Official indictments have not yet taken place since prosecutors are still studying the documents. Some of the arrested men have admitted their roles, while others have denied involvement. (1 euro = 1.10 U.S. dollars)

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