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|Saturday, September 09, 2000, updated at 18:35(GMT+8)|
Ring Leader Tailed Before 58 Illegal Immigrants' Deaths: MinisterThe suspected ring leader of illegal immigration connected to the deaths of 58 immigrants in Dover had been under police surveillance before the incident, the Dutch press reported on Friday.
But the police had no clear evidence that the unidentified man was involved in human trafficking, the press quoted Dutch Justice Minister Benk Korthals as saying.
Korthals told a special parliamentary hearing on Thursday that the Dutch police had been watching the suspect once or twice a week for some time.
However, the suspect was not followed on the day in June when the Chinese illegal immigrants were packed into a refrigerated container truck for the trip to Britain.
The name of the suspect was withheld in line with the Dutch privacy practice.
Korthals said that under surveillance operations, groups of illegal immigrants are allowed to leave the Netherlands to help gather evidence against the human trafficking gangs.
But he said the Dover incident was not among those allowed to proceed and he denied that he was aware of any human trafficking activities by the ring leader in question before the tragedy occurred.
Six suspects are now in custody in the Dover case and five others had been detained and then conditionally released after questioning.
A court hearing on the case in the Netherlands is expected in September and full parliamentary debate is slated for October.
In June, British customs officers in Dover found the bodies of 58 Chinese who had suffocated in the back of an air-tight truck during a five-hour ferry crossing from Zeebrugge, Belgium, to Britain's Dover. Only two of them survived the horrifying trip.
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