The UAE announced, on Thursday, that it had led a large-scale international police operation in Sudan that led to the arrest of the head of a large human smuggling network.
An Eritrean citizen named “Kidan Zakarias Habet Maryam, known as “Kidan” was arrested on the first of January in Sudan, and he is wanted on charges including smuggling of migrants, human trafficking and others.
Kidane was arrested in Ethiopia in 2020, but he escaped after one year, after which he was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment.
According to Interpol, Kidane “is wanted for his leadership of a criminal organization that, over several years, kidnapped, abused and extorted migrants from East Africa to smuggle them to Europe.”
It is estimated that Kidane trafficked “hundreds of victims”.
With the help of Interpol, the UAE authorities launched an investigation last year targeting Kidan’s network, including his brother, who “laundered money on his behalf,” noting that these financial transactions “enabled the officers to locate Kidan in Sudan.”
Sudanese police arrested Kidan in Sudan on January 1, in coordination with the UAE authorities, according to Brigadier General Saeed Abdullah Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the UAE Federal Drug Control Department.
“We have now closed one of the most important smuggling routes to Europe, which illegally transported thousands of migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan via Libya to Europe,” the statement quoted Al-Suwaidi as saying.
Al Suwaidi told reporters that Kidan will now be tried in the UAE on charges of money laundering, and the authorities will consider the possibility of extraditing him after the case is closed in the country.
Al-Suwaidi stressed that this is “just the beginning” in pursuing the “I loved Maryam” network, and that his country is discussing with Interpol the possibility of launching another investigation into a major smuggling network.
For his part, Stephen Kavanagh, Executive Director of Interpol Police Services, said that Kidane is one of the most “wanted” criminals in the Netherlands, Ethiopia and other countries.
Kavanagh expressed his gratitude to the authorities of the UAE, Ethiopia, the Netherlands and Sudan, who he said had played a “decisive role” in the case.