People-smuggling ‘kingpin’ extradited to Italy

London, June 8 (IANS) An Eritrean man believed to be responsible for smuggling migrants from Africa to Europe has been extradited to Italy.

Mered Medhanie, 35, known as ‘The General’, was held in Sudan in May and was flown to Rome on Tuesday, BBC reported.

Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said he is thought to have arranged the transit of a boat from Libya that capsized near the Italian island of Lampedusa in October 2013 which killed 359 migrants.

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

Prosecutors accused Medhanie 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.

Medhanie styled himself on the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and is said to have driven around in a tank.

La Repubblica said 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.

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.

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.

–IANS

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