Notorious Eritrean-Dutch human trafficker arrested in Kenya

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A notorious Eritrean-Dutch human trafficker was arrested in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, International Police [INTERPOL] has confirmed, days after his apprehension, ending the long search for his whereabouts.

John Habeta, 53, has been linked to a series of human trafficking cases within East Africa and around the world, with his preferred destination being Europe. His victims are mostly children and women, various police reports confirmed.

Interpol said John Hobeta was taken into custody at Schiphol International airport in Amsterdam on 25 December after his arrest in Kenya. His arrest, Interpol confirmed in a statement, came after years of failed police traps around the world.

Kenyan Police arrested John Habeta in Nairobi on 16 December as part of a sting operation coordinated between authorities in the Netherlands and Kenya with the support of INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters, the statement further read.

Acting on globally sourced INTERPOL intelligence leads, the INTERPOL National Central Bureau [NCB] in The Hague alerted the Kenyan NCB to the fugitive’s presence in Nairobi on 10 December.

An INTERPOL Red Notice – or international fugitive alert – was published the same day for people smuggling and use of fake identity documents to carry out transcontinental smuggling operations, triggering the suspect’s surveillance and arrest on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital.

The Dutch national remains in custody in The Netherlands until trial where, if convicted, he faces a sentence of up to eight years in prison. Habeta was allegedly involved in at least four different operations to smuggle groups of Eritrean nationals into Europe using routes from Asia.

INTERPOL’s specialized unit on migrant smuggling and human trafficking identified Habeta as a high priority target in October 2020 when member countries alerted INTERPOL to new leads about the fugitive’s global smuggling activities, which were immediately shared with the NCB in The Hague.

People smuggling syndicates are run like businesses with high-profit margins and links to a wide range of serious and often violent crimes including illicit money flows, corruption, terrorism, trafficking in illicit goods, and human trafficking, the statement added.

International police cooperation Criminal groups behind human trafficking and migrant smuggling were already hit last July when INTERPOL’s operation Liberterra saw 286 suspects arrested worldwide.

In April, Operation Weka mobilized 24 source, transit, and destination countries enabling authorities in Africa and Europe to rescue nearly 500 victims of human trafficking and identify some 760 irregular migrants.

Both operations boosted regional law enforcement cooperation into people smuggling and triggered associated police investigations in all continents into targets like Habeta.

“John Habeta alias Obama, who holds citizenship in the Netherlands, but who owns a property in Leeds, and who for a price of $20,000 or more per
head has been organizing travel of people from Sudan to Singapore and the Philippines.

After smuggling them, his clients are then abandoned without any money or passports who often end up in prisons for years, some of his victims are still in Indonesian prisons and the women who gave birth in Indonesian prisons are raising their children in prison till this day.

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