Belgian Court Convicts Foreign Gang of Trafficking in Human Beings

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Sunday, June 1, 2003
Bruce Zagaris
In the last week of March, a Belgian court in Bruges convicted seven of trafficking in human beings in connections with an incident in December 2001, in which the group sent thirteen stowaways in a shipment of office furniture sent from Belgium to Ireland. The trafficking operation led to the deaths of eight Turkish and North African men, women and children, aged four to forty. Hey suffocated to death when the container loaded at the Groot-Bijaarden truck stop outside Brussels endured 100 hours inside an almost airtight space. The five survivors from Turkey and North Africa testified during the trail. They testified that, although the smugglers told them they would be traveling to a place near London, they were in fact transported to Wexford in Ireland. The court convicted seven of the eight defendants following ta three-day hearing. Interestingly, the truck driver and only Belgian national tried was acquitted. His defense was that he had taken heavy mediation and was asleep when the traffickers broke into the container. The gang consisted of Turkish-born Osgur Doganbaloglu, 42, who was based in Britain. His organization charged an average $5,000 for each person who traveled to Britain. The Court sentenced Doganbaloglu and another ringleader, Bekim Bogaj, a Kosovar Albanian, to 10 years in absentia. It sentenced Flamour Domi, another Kosovar Albanian, to six years, and his son, Donald, to eight years. Three Brussels taxi drivers who brought the 13 stowaways form Brussels to the truck-stop received a sentence of two years each. One defendant against whom a criminal warrant was issued, failed to appear for sentencing.