Medhanie Yehdego Mered, 35, who had been on a wanted list since 2015 for international people smuggling, was arrested in Khartoum at the end of May and flown to Italy late Monday, police said in a statement.
“Mered is considered one of the biggest migrant traffickers operating on the Libyan- Sub-Saharan route,” it said.
“He directed operations not only in Africa but also kept fellow operators in Italy up to date on the arrival of boats, to enable the migrants to continue to their final destinations (in Europe).”
Mered was tracked down by the Sudanese intelligence services, with support from Italy’s organised crime police and Britain’s National Crime Agency.
A top Sudanese police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity that Mered was “accused of smuggling youngsters from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan across the Mediterranean through Sudan or Libya or Egypt”.
Wiretaps of Mered’s conversations revealed he was in contact with traffickers in north European countries, particularly the Netherlands and Scandinavia, and held a “senior position in a criminal network operating in several continents”, the Italian police statement said.
He also showed “disregard for the lives of the migrants, appearing cynical and unscrupulous.”
It is the first time a suspected top smuggler has been arrested in Africa and brought to face justice in Italy, which has been overwhelmed by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people since the migrant crisis began in 2008.