People-smuggling ‘kingpin’ Mered Medhanie extradited to Italy

An Eritrean man believed to be at the heart of the operation to smuggle migrants from Africa to Europe has been extradited to Italy, prosecutors say. Mered Medhanie, known as The General, was held in Sudan

An Eritrean man believed to be at the heart of the operation to smuggle migrants from Africa to Europe has been extradited to Italy, prosecutors say.

Mered Medhanie, known as The General, was held in Sudan in May and was flown to Rome on Tuesday.

Britain’s National Crime Agency says he is thought to have arranged the transit of a boat that sank near the Italian island of Lampedusa in October 2013.

At least 359 migrants died when the boat, travelling from Libya, capsized.

Most were from Eritrea and Somalia.

Italian news agency Ansa said Mr Mered was accused of being “the leader and organiser of one of the largest criminal groups operating between central Africa and Libya”.

Prosecutors accuse Mr Mered of running the network alongside an Ethiopian accomplice, who is still at large.

The two men are accused of buying up kidnapped migrants from other gangs and sending those migrants on barely seaworthy ships across the Mediterranean towards Europe.

The investigation is being led by investigators in the Sicilian city of Palermo. Mr Mered is expected to appear in court on Wednesday.

The UK’s National Crime Agency said it had tracked him down to an address in Khartoum, where he was then arrested. The rare extradition from Sudan to Italy was completed in record time, reported Italy’s La Repubblica (in Italian).

  • The 39-year-old Eritrean once lived in Italy, where he came under the radar of anti-mafia investigators after trying to open a bank account in Dubai
  • Later moved to Libya, where most African migrants start the treacherous journey to Europe, and finally to Sudan, where he was arrested
  • His wife and family live in Sweden
  • Called “the General”, as he styled himself on late Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi
  • Said to have driven around in a tank and boasted: “Nobody is stronger than me”
  • Amount of money that went through him estimated in the billions

Full profile of Mered Medhanie


Medhane 2British investigators had been supporting the Italian inquiry into the Lampedusa tragedy.

La Repubblica says telephone intercepts acquired by Italian investigators depict a man who, while kind and considerate when dealing with matters relating to his wife and children in Sweden, was cynical and ruthless in his work.

‘Disregard for life’

In the recordings, he estimates he has smuggled 7,000 or 8,000 people. In one, he is reportedly heard laughing at the overloading of migrant boats.

A key concern was where to hide his spoils. The best place would be America or Canada, he is quoted as saying: “there, they don’t ask where you got it from.”

“Medhanie is a prolific people-smuggler and has absolute disregard for human life,” said Tom Dowdall, deputy director of the NCA.

“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.”

Italy’s Corriere Della Serra newspaper reported that Mr Mered boasted of being in league with local officials in Tripoli, Libya, while also having a network of workers in Italy.

He charged migrants up to €5,000 (£3,900; $5,680) to travel from African countries to northern Europe, the newspaper said (in Italian).

Investigators are said to be hopeful that he will co-operate with the investigation, helping to identify other smugglers carrying people on the Libya-Italy route.

Up to 500 people were on the boat which broke down and then sank in early October 2013.

Those who survived said that some of those on board set fire to a piece of material to try to attract the attention of passing ships, only to have the fire spread to the rest of the boat.

In 2014, the year after the Lampedusa tragedy, the number of migrant arrivals to Italy jumped to 170,000, before dropping to 153,800 last year. Close to 40,000 people have arrived in Italy so far this year.

BBC

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8 COMMENTS
  • k.tewolde June 8, 2016

    If he is the real guy, I can’t wait to hear his testimonials and where he can take us for introduction as his source of venture capital.

  • Gobo June 9, 2016

    All crimes against Eritreans be it in sahel, Barka, Asmara, Libya, Sudan, Egypt … should be brought to justice.
    It is every sane human beings belief that the slavery in Eritrea and the Abidism of poor Eritreans in the hand of the savage Arabs in Libya, Sudan and Egypt Sina and in the hand of the evil hgdef, the savage Islamist State ISIS, the opportunist Arab Police and selfish organ harvesting Arab doctors will come to end.
    For sixty years we were dancing to tune of evil, ignorant savages. Will we be free soon?
    All the criminals who committed crimes against humanity, history, languages and identity in the last sixty years should be brought to justice.

  • AHMED SALEH !!! June 9, 2016

    He lived in Italy then went back to Sudan then to Libya . It looks the
    war against smugglers caught one of the ring leaders . Instead Europe
    waste their money to finance our corrupted officials for cooperative
    mission their intelligentsia must investigate the sources of organized criminal activity and infiltrate to identify chains of the enterprise .
    We voiced our suspicion of government officials involvement alongside
    these criminals . Money talks if they want hire rank and file paid informants .

  • k.tewolde June 9, 2016

    Tesfazghi,Gobo, with all due respect, if you are handing the sole ownership of our struggle for liberation to a handful of criminal thugs and their accomplices that happen to grab power from the people by betraying the very cause that the people fought for, then don’t expect to be free. Ghedli belongs to the ones who gave us the gift of their precious life, Ghedli belongs to the people who gave us their meal by depriving themselves when we showed up at their doorstep, unless you learn how to dissociate Ghedli from the self appointed brutal regime in Asmara, you will never see the light of the day.Refrain from desecrating the Eritrean Ghedli and our martyrs who gave it all in the process.Their redemption is imminent.Play a part in making it happen.

  • Kidane Beraki June 10, 2016

    Dear K. Tewolde, don’t respond in such manner to the few sadistic Ethiopians such as “independent slave” and “Gobo” who I strongly believe are Tigrayans. His vulgar language should not be dignified by any response. We shall invite them to come and visit after we built our Eritrea on the ashes of the dictator and his cronies.

    • Tesfazighi June 10, 2016

      K.Beraki, you need to know that it is neither you nor your kind of people who give or take his/her ones Eritrean citizenship. This is just the kind of thinking your PFDJ and evil-ghedli masters who defame their political opponents as Woyane, CIA and Ethiopians and you’ve really been well trained and graduated from their camps. You or your likes should NOT have the right to judge others citizenship based on their political views. We are living in the civilized world, under rule of law, democracy and freedom the things you are supposedly fighting for but sadly it seems you are still fond of evil-ghedli’s Sahel rule of law.

      My beautiful and highly respected brother Mihretu Habte (IS) and Gobo, youjust can’t help but be reminded of how African Americans in 1980s came up “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words won’t hurt me” as they fought the Jim Crow laws of ultimite subjugation. Little do these so-called liberators of evil-ghedli realize they can’t add insult to injury, because by their feeble attempt to defend we aew seeing the tragedy in real time. Keep ignoring the losers and keep up your positive contributions.
      And please Assenna stop deleting some of my comments keep staying impartial to all.

      Dear Assenna and brother Aman, we should all learn tolerance. We should accept our differences; then we can recognize and address our common national concerns together. Sometimes it is NOT evil intentions but frustrations and our deep convictions in our views and opinions that lead us to irrational arguments, hypocrisy and confused arguments. DEMOCRACY requires thick “skin”! Easily bruised egos are tale-tell signs of intolerance and dictatorship. All justice and peace loving people get frustrated by the slow pace of change while endless punishments are meted out against our people. However, it is in times of frustration that cooler heads must prevail. But, this guy (K.Beraki) can’t silence people, anybody is entitled to express their opinions freely. Only in the savage evil moslem Arab world or in Higdefs world is no freedom of speech allowed.

    • k.tewolde June 10, 2016

      Amen my friend,can’t wait till that much anticipated day which is not far away.As the true hospitable and generous Eritreans, we will say MARHABA to everybody and we wouldn’t charge them 2% and use it as a blackmail for entitlement against our citizens.There will be enough for everybody ABTI MOSOB including the guests.Thanks again Kidane.

  • Tesfazighi June 10, 2016

    K.Tewolde, with all due respect to you too respectable man (unlike the two moslem zombies from jihad planet).
    Two wrongs doesn’t make a right. Similarly, two all alien-loving evil ghedli of ELF and EPLF/PFDJ have not made life right or easy for the poor Eritrean people at all. It is well over time that you and your likes start looking in the big mirrors for your ugly and evil ghedli images. Just wishful thinking and blaming others all the time is not going to get you anywhere but sadly rationality has been lost in the evil ghedli land of Eritrea.

    Indeed, it is rightly said, “powerless people can get scared of freedom”. When a person accuses others of not loving and worshiping his/her heroes and all alien-loving evil ghedli, then he/she is in shakey ground. Your lunatic evil ghedli brought the so-called “independence” but not “liberty & freedom of individuals” the idea of democracy and good governance. The current authoritarian system we have in Eritrea is the inevitable outcome of your evil ghedli bandits in search of alien identities and masters.

    “Insanity : doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” _ Albert Einstein. Therefore, those who don’t learn from the past are pretty much already doomed. If a society doesn’t have the capacity to be self-critical and self-examining then there is no guarantee of breaking the vicious cycle of ignorance and tyranny trap with self-inflated egos. Furthermore, if there is no will to get out of the inverse culture what is the guarantee we may put in power the same evil-ghedli brute system when the present is gone? Sadly, there is no guarantee with the same old evil ghedli generations.

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