UAE arrests head of major people smuggling network

On the 1st of January Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam (‘Kidane’), an Eritrean national wanted for migrant smuggling, human trafficking and other related crimes, was arrested in Sudan in a major international police operation led by the United Arab Emirates, based on information shared via INTERPOL.

H.H. Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, announced on his Twitter account today "Thursday" about this international operation, saying: ""A successful 9-month global police operation led by the UAE and in partnership with Interpol, resulted in the arrest of wanted internationally and by the UAE, Kidane Habtemariam, a fugitive from prison in one of the countries and the leader of a criminal organisation for human trafficking, and his brother Henok Zekarias, wanted for money laundering. Thanks for all the partners.

The subject of an INTERPOL Red Notice, Kidane is wanted for leading a criminal organisation which over several years, kidnapped, mistreated and extorted East African migrants to smuggle them into Europe. It is estimated that since 2014, Kidane is responsible for having trafficked hundreds of victims. His arrest will neutralise a major people smuggling route towards Europe and protect thousands who would have been at risk of exploitation.

Following the sharing of intelligence by INTERPOL’s Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants unit last year, the UAE conducted a thorough investigation into members of Kidane’s network, including his own brother, who laundered money on his behalf. The illicit financial transactions detected by UAE law enforcement enabled officers to locate Kidane in Sudan.

This comes in a Media press in which spoke Brigadier Saeed Abdullah al Suwaidi, Director General, Federal Anti-Narcotics General Directorate of the UAE; Stephen Kavanagh Executive Director of Police Services at Interpol; Captain Erwin Kolkman Team leader Intelligence Unit on behalf of the Netherland; Zelalem Mengistea DEJEN (Dep. Commissioner General of Ethiopian Federal Police) and Tsegaye Haile DAMTE Head of NCB Addis Ababa

Speaking about the arrest [Brigadier Saeed Abdullah al Suwaidi, Director General, Federal Anti-Narcotics General Directorate of the UAE], said: Thanks to the professionalism and dedication of our police officers, the world’s most wanted human trafficker will no longer be able to commit his despicable actions.

Smuggling and trafficking human beings is an appalling crime, and we have now shut down one of the most important trafficking routes into Europe, which illegally moved thousands of migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan, through Libya and into Europe.

We want other smugglers to know that they can no longer hide. The UAE will continue to deploy our full operational capabilities to protect vulnerable communities from this horrific exploitation”.

Stephen Kavanagh, Interpol Executive Director Of Police Services added: We are grateful to the UAE authorities for their support and swift action and to all member countries who played a crucial role in this case in particular Ethiopia, the Netherlands and Sudan.

Today, a convicted criminal is in police custody and will face justice for the harm he has caused countless victims. It is a testament to the INTERPOL network, and what can be achieved when countries work together.

Kidane had been on the run since February 2021, and was considered one of the most wanted traffickers at the time of his arrest.

Captain Erwin Kolkman Team leader Intelligence Unit on behalf of the Netherlands said today, thanks to international cooperation across continents, that we have proven that we are able when joint work, to rid humanity of many dangers.

He then expressed his thanks and appreciation to the United Arab Emirates for its pivotal role in arresting this wanted person in a number of countries in the world and committed crimes against humanity.

Zelalem Mengistea DEJEN (Dep. Commissioner General of Ethiopian Federal Police) We have achieved a distinguished achievement thanks to cooperation and coordination, and a special thanks to the law enforcement forces in the United Arab Emirates, from whom we extend our thanks and appreciation, stressing that one of the most wanted persons has been arrested in cases related to human trafficking.”

Kidani, who was arrested, is considered one of the most dangerous fugitives with crimes related to human trafficking.

He escaped once in 2021 when he was arrested and was in hiding until the day he was arrested again in this international operation led by the United Arab Emirates

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