The man named Mered Medhanie and originally from Eritrea, was extradited from Sudan to Italy after his calls were intercepted and he was heard boasting about cramming people into rickety boats and sending them onwards to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.
The National Crime Agency tracked him down to his address in Sudan and he is — according to agency sources — one of the worlds most wanted people smugglers. He has been accused of being the mastermind behind the whole trafficking operation, which saw thousands of migrants smuggled across sea to Europe.
For the Italian prosecution team, who are building a case against "the General," his comments only prove how many people still do not care about the lives of those fleeing war zones in the Middle East and Africa.
"This shows an absolute indifference about the lives of immigrants," Italian magistrate Maurizio Scalia said.
Medhanie was arrested in Sudan on May 24 on charges of trafficking and abetting illegal immigration. He will now face up to 30 years in prison, if he is convicted.
Mistaken identity claim after 'people smuggling mastermind' held https://t.co/rT54qNwLGy pic.twitter.com/QCYiXWN5yT— Press Association (@PA) June 9, 2016
Due to the number of people who lost their lives at sea thanks to his trafficking operation, magistrates have said he may also face homicide charges. There was no comment from the lawyer representing him.
This is the first time that a suspected trafficking kingpin has been tracked down in Africa and arrested. However, many other smuggling networks based on the continent continue to operate.