The UAE and Interpol led a joint operation to track down and arrest an Eritrean man named KIdane Zekarias Habtemariam who is a known human trafficker and was in the Interpol most wanted list since 2019.
He was known to run a Libya-based human trafficking gang that was responsible for the murder, extortion, and torture of thousands of African migrants. Zakarias was absconding since 2021 when he escaped from an Ethiopian court after he spent a year in prison there.
UAE teamed up with Interpol to track down and arrest World’s “Most-Wanted Human Trafficker”
He was captured on New Year’s day from Sudan by a joint multinational operation that was headed by UAE officials. Brigadier Saeed Abdullah al-Suwaidi, Director General of the UAE’s Federal Anti-Narcotics Department complimented the dedication and professionalism of the police officials who were part of the operation.
He said that because of their efforts, a criminal like Kidane Zakarias won’t be able to commit any more despicable crimes. Suwaidi also expressed confidence that the crime network Kidane had also been destroyed as the Emirati Police had been on his tail for a long time since Interpol had issued a red notice against him.
The officials were able to trace his location by following the trail of Kidane and his gang’s money laundering operations.
Stephen Kavanagh, Executive Director of the Interpol Police Services, said that such achievements are a testimony to the efficiency of the Interpol network and how cooperation between different countries can lead to such beneficial results regarding global law and order.
A task force meeting was conducted with representatives from Sudan, the Netherlands, the UAE, Ethiopia, Europol, and the regional operational center. The meeting was held as a supporting initiative for the Khartoum process and the African Union Horn of Africa Initiative.
The collaboration of these different nations gradually led to the money laundering investigations and finally to the hideout of Kidane’s location in Sudan. Kidane’s arrest will send an inspiring message throughout the globe about the efficiency of cooperative law and order systems and also it will be news of relief for thousands of people who would have been possible victims of its criminal syndicate.
One of his close associates was also extradited by the Ethiopian administration last year with the help of the same team and now all of them will have to face the heat of justice for the violent and deplorable crimes they have done.
Stefan Schrander, Warrant officer of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee was ecstatic about the news of Kidane’s arrest and said that he was on the Dutch National Most Wanted List since October 2021. He also thanked all the other countries who took part in this operation that was coordinated through the efforts of Interpol.
According to the UAE Ministry of Interior, Kidane’s crime network was so feared and ruthless that he earned the title of the “Most Wanted Human Trafficker” and his arrest would cripple one of the major human smuggling channels to Europe.
Earlier in February 2020, Kidane was once arrested by the Ethiopian police when one of his victims identified him on the streets. But during his trial in an Ethiopian court, managed to walk out and escape from the court premises. An investigation was started to recapture him and also there were suspicions about the police officers who were in charge of Kidane for allegedly facilitating his escape by accepting bribes from him.
The Ethiopian court still sentenced him to life imprisonment in his absentia with Europol and the Netherlands creating an international task force to capture him. The Dutch officials had offered a bounty of 20,000 euros as a reward for his arrest. According to Kavanagh, Kidane had traveled across Africa using fake identities after his escape from Ethiopia.
He said that this is not just about the arrest of Kidane but it impacts a much larger form of crime network involving people like Kidane who use women, children, and other innocent, helpless people as mere commodities for trade.
They are kept in inhuman conditions and tortured to great lengths that some of them even get murdered. Kavanagh observed that people like Kidane are usually overconfident and they tend to think that they are above the grasp of the law and justice system.
Interpol’s Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants Unit shared relevant intelligence with the UAE law officials and with this information they were able to track the illegal financial transactions of Kidane that gradually revealed his hideout in Sudan. Brigadier Suwaidi said that the UAE government has extradited Kidane and he will be now facing trial on charges of money laundering.
According to the experiences of his victims, Kidane used to rape and torture African migrants from his base camp in the Libyan town of Bani Walid. He and his associates used to beat up and extort money from a lot of vulnerable individuals during the time from 2014 to 2018. The Dutch Police reported that the main intention of Kidane and his gang was to extract money from people who were desperate to migrate to Europe.