ADDIS ABABA – The Ethiopian Federal Police says “the most wanted human trafficker in the world” Kidane Zekarias is arrested in Sudan after a coordinated effort involving Interpol.
Kidane was arrested in Ethiopia in 2020 but escaped custody on Feb 18, 2021, and was later sentenced in absentia to life in prison.
On Friday, the Federal Police said the fugitive, the subject of two Interpol red notices by Ethiopia and the Netherlands for migrant smuggling, human trafficking and other related crimes, was arrested in Sudan.
He has also been accused of running a major criminal organization behind the kidnapping, extortion, and murder of East African migrants.
In a statement, Interpol said the Eritrean national believed to have smuggled and trafficked thousands of victims had been on its radar for years.
In March 2022, intelligence gathered by Interpol prompted a task force meeting with participants from Ethiopia, Sudan, The Netherlands, UAE, Europol, and other Regional security agencies.
Officers explored analytical gaps, progressively closing in on the fugitive and his associates.
The collaboration efforts allowed UAE authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of his network and family members, identifying money laundering activities and leading up to his arrest in Sudan.
His arrest will deal “a significant blow to a major smuggling route towards Europe and protect thousands more from being exploited at the hands of the crime group”, Interpol said.
Ethiopian Federal Police’s Commissioner General Demelash Gebremichael recognized the efforts of officers who worked day and night to follow up on leads generated by the task force.
“This tremendous effort has led to the arrest of an international criminal sentenced to life in prison in Ethiopia,” he said “It is a notable success.”
The Eritrean will now face trial in the UAE for money laundering, and authorities will review the possibility of his extradition after the case is closed in the UAE.
More arrests are also expected as part of ongoing investigations and as coordination continues with several Interpol member countries.
“More than ever, we are committed to identifying all of the members in this smuggling ring, and any others that viciously exploit people seeking a better life,” said Stephen Kavanagh, a director at Interpol.