One of the world’s most wanted people smugglers, dubbed ‘The General’, has been arrested in Sudan following an international operation.
Mered Medhanie, a 35-year-old Eritrean, was apprehended by an investigation team from the Sudanese National Police in May after the National Crime Agency tracked him down to an address in the El Diem area of Khartoum.
The capture of Medhanie, who was wanted by the Italian authorities, can be reported now that he has been successfully extradited to Italy.
NCA officers from the UK Immigration Crime Taskforce, called Project Invigor, have been providing ongoing support to the Italian Operation Glauco, which commenced after 359 migrants died when a vessel sank off the coast of Lampedusa in 2013. Italian prosecutors say Medhanie, who is known as ‘The General’ because he styled himself on former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, is responsible for the Lampedusa tragedy and is the mastermind behind a major criminal organisation responsible for smuggling thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa into Europe.
Telephone interceptions gathered by the Italians confirmed Medhanie was organising regular journeys across the Mediterranean, and was also directly coordinating other people smugglers responsible for land routes. During one recorded conversation Medhanie was heard laughing about the fatal overloading of migrant ships.
Tom Dowdall, NCA Deputy Director, said: “Medhanie is a prolific people smuggler and has absolute disregard for human life. Although he was operating thousands of miles away, his criminal activity was impacting the UK. Medhanie no doubt thought he was beyond the reach of European justice but we were able to support the Italians by tracking him down to Sudan.
“The intelligence-led operation which resulted in his capture included extensive analysis of communications data, with support from GCHQ. We were also able to use of our international network to broker strategic and operational relationships with the Sudanese authorities.
“The arrest was only possible thanks to substantial cooperation between the Sudanese National Police and the NCA, together with the Palermo Prosecutors, the Italian Police, the Sudanese and Italian Ministries of Justice, and the Italian Ministry of Interior.”
Medhanie is charged with being chief and organiser of a transnational criminal conspiracy aimed at smuggling of human beings from Africa to Italy to Northern Europe and the UK. Other charges include the smuggling of migrants related to numerous arrivals of boats in Sicily, with aggravating circumstances of the number of smuggled people, inhuman treatment and risk of the life of migrants.