UAE arrests head of major human trafficking network

The accused Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam ( Kidane’), an Eritrean national, was arrested on January 1….reports Asian Lite News

A notorious criminal, 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, along with Interpol.

The accused Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam ( Kidane’), an Eritrean national, was arrested on January 1.

Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior UAE, announced on his Twitter account yesterday 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 organization 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, the UAE Ministry of Interior said in a statement.

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, the ministry said.

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.

Speaking about the arrest, Brigadier Saeed Abdullah al Suwaidi, Director General, Federal Anti-Narcotics General Directorate of the UAE, said: “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.”

He stressed that the UAE will continue to deploy full operational capabilities to protect vulnerable communities from this horrific exploitation.

Stephen Kavanagh, Interpol executive director of police services said: “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.”

Kidane had been on the run since February 2021, and was considered one of the most wanted traffickers at the time of his arrest. He escaped once in 2021 and was in hiding till date.

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