THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Ethiopia has turned over to Dutch judicial authorities a 38-year-old Eritrean man suspected of playing a leading role in a major international criminal network that smuggled Eritreans to the Netherlands.
“The journey involved brutal violence — migrants were abused and extorted in camps,” prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday after the suspect was taken into custody by military border police.
Dutch prosecutors said their investigation included cooperation from Italy, Europol, Interpol and the International Criminal Court.
The man, whose identity wasn’t released, is suspected of people smuggling from 2014-2020.
“On their way to Europe, victims were beaten, tortured and raped, while they were held in camps in Libya with hundreds of others,” the prosecutors said, adding that several migrants died as a result.
Family members of the migrants in the Netherlands were forced to pay large sums of money before the migrants could continue their journey to Europe in “crowded and barely seaworthy boats. Countless migrants did not survive this sea voyage,” prosecutors said.
The man extradited to the Netherlands already has been convicted in Ethiopia and sentenced to 18 years.
Prosecutors say he worked with alleged people smuggling kingpin Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam, who was put on the Netherlands most-wanted list last year.
Habtemariam’s location is unknown. He escaped from custody in Ethiopia while on trial there on people smuggling charges, Dutch prosecutors said. He was convicted in his absence and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The 38-year-old suspect now in the Netherlands also is suspected of extortion.
“Since these criminal offenses partly took place in the Netherlands, the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service has jurisdiction to prosecute him for these crimes,” prosecutors said.