UAE arrests kingpin of major human trafficking ring
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UAE arrests kingpin of major human trafficking ring

UAE arrests kingpin of major human trafficking ring

The UAE worked closely with Interpol and local police in Sudan for the operation to nab the Eritrean criminal and members of the human trafficking ring

UAE police arrest international trafficker photo courtesy twitter-interpol

The UAE led a major international police operation, based on information shared by Interpol, to successfully arrest Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam (Kidane), an Eritrean national wanted for migrant smuggling, human trafficking, and other related crimes, in Sudan, according to a statement released by the UAE Ministry of Interior. His brother, Henok Zekarias, was also arrested.

Kidane was wanted by international law enforcement agencies, including Interpol, the UAE, and the Netherlands Police, for leading a criminal organisation that over several years, kidnapped, mistreated, and extorted East African migrants to smuggle them into Europe.

Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior UAE, announced on his Twitter account on January 5 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.”


It is estimated that since 2014, Kidane is responsible for having trafficked hundreds of victims.

According to a statement by the UAE Ministry of Interior, 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.

Brigadier Saeed Abdullah al Suwaidi, director general of the 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, executive director of Police Services, Interpol, 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.

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