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Hong Kong Man Sentenced in People Smuggling Case

A Hong Kong man has been sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the death of 58 would-be illegal immigrants who suffocated in an airtight container truck in the English port of Dover three years ago.

Lam Hei-kit, 29, was found guilty by a Hong Kong court of two counts of money laundering, and two counts of possessing unlawfully obtained passports. He received a four-year prison sentence.

District Court Judge Tong Man described Mr. Lam as a "key figure in the human smuggling racket," which led to the deaths of 58 Chinese migrants concealed in a container truck in June of 2000. He said that while Mr. Lam had not been the prime mover in the crime ring, he had been in charge of funds used for human smuggling and falsifying passports.

Evidence showed that Mr. Lam received two cash payments totaling $348,000 just hours after the 58 bodies were discovered at the port of Dover. The money was allegedly laundered funds from the smuggling racket.

Investigators said the migrants had suffocated in the airtight container during the five-hour crossing from the Netherlands into Britain. Two other migrants in the truck survived.

A British court earlier convicted a Dutch truck driver, Perry Wacker, of manslaughter in the case. Wacker was sentenced to 14 years in prison.