UAE: Leader of human trafficking gang held in global operation

A tight international operation led by the UAE as represented by the Ministry of Interior and carried out in co-operation with Interpol, resulted in the arrest of Kidani Zakarias, an Eritrean national and leader of a human trafficking organisation, in Sudan on January 1st 2023.

Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, announced this international operation on his Twitter account on Thursday.

“A successful 9-month operation led by the UAE in partnership with Interpol resulted in the arrest of criminals wanted internationally and by the UAE: Kidani Zakarias, a fugitive leader of a human trafficking organisation, and his brother Henok Zakarias, who is wanted for money laundering. I thank all partners,” Sheikh Saif tweeted.

The details of the operation were announced during a virtual press conference by Brigadier General Saeed Abdullah Al Suwaidi, Director General of the Federal Anti-narcotics Department at the Ministry of Interior, and Stephen Kavanagh, Executive Director of Police Services at the Interpol, as well as officials from the Dutch Police and Ethiopian Police.

The speakers at the press conference revealed that Kidani was wanted by the Interpol with two red notices issued in 2021 for leading a criminal organisation that over several years kidnapped, abused, and extorted migrants from East Africa for smuggling to Europe, adding that it was estimated that since 2014, Kidani had been responsible for trafficking hundreds of victims.

They stated that the arrest of Kidani would lead a main route for smuggling people towards Europe to be neutralised and would consequently enhance the security and stability of its countries and protect thousands who were at risk of exploitation.

This international operation led by the UAE was based on preliminary information provided by Interpol last year, they said, noting that the UAE conducted a comprehensive investigation under which representatives of the Kidani gang, including his brother, who was carrying out money laundering on behalf of the criminal network, were detected.

The UAE law enforcement authorities also traced the gang’s money transfer network, which helped locate Kidani and arrest him in Sudan.

“Human trafficking is a terrible crime, but thanks to this operation, we closed one of the most important smuggling routes to Europe, which illegally transported hundreds of migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan to Europe,” Al Suwaidi said.

“We hereby send a firm message to human traffickers around the world that they will no longer be able to hide and that the UAE and the countries of the world will continue to deploy their full operational capabilities to protect societies from this horrific exploitation,” he added.

Meanwhile, Kavanagh said: “We are grateful to the UAE authorities for their support and prompt action and to all member states that played a decisive role in this case, particularly Ethiopia, the Netherlands and Sudan.


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