From drug lords to supercar fraudsters: 6 times UAE helped nab some of the world's most wanted criminals

The latest arrest on the list happened in January 2023, where two brothers wanted for human trafficking, money laundering were booked in Sudan


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Mon 9 Jan 2023, 5:41 PM

Last updated: Mon 9 Jan 2023, 5:57 PM

The UAE has over the recent years played a part in helping the Interpol apprehend top international criminals wanted for various crimes.

Khaleej Times has put together a list of some of the most-wanted criminals caught with the help of UAE in recent times:

1. Brothers Kidane Zekarias and Henok Zakarias

In January 2023, UAE authorities helped Interpol nab two Eritrean criminals, Kidane Zekarias and Henok Zakarias, who are wanted internationally for money laundering and trafficking of hundreds of Africans. This was after a 9-month-long international police operation.

According to the UAE Ministry of Interior, on January 1, Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam (‘Kidane’), an Eritrean national wanted for migrant smuggling, human trafficking and other related crimes, was arrested in Sudan in a major international police operation led by the United Arab Emirates, based on information shared via Interpol.

Kidane was wanted for leading a criminal organisation that, over several years, kidnapped, mistreated and extorted East African migrants to smuggle them into Europe.

His brother Henok Zakarias, was wanted for money laundering.

Following the sharing of intelligence by Interpol’s Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants unit last year, the UAE conducted a thorough investigation into members of Kidane's network, including his brother, who laundered money on his behalf. The illicit financial transactions detected by UAE law enforcement enabled officers to locate Kidane in Sudan.

It is estimated that since 2014, Kidane has been responsible for having trafficked hundreds of victims. Referring to Kidane as a "notorious people smuggler", Interpol said he was known for his "particularly cruel and violent treatment of migrants”.

He was the subject of two Interpol Red Notices, by Ethiopia and the Netherlands, for migrant smuggling, human trafficking and other related crimes. He is wanted for heading a major criminal organisation behind the kidnapping, extortion and murder of East African migrants, Interpol said in a statement.

2. Moufide ‘Mouf’ Bouchibi, also known as 'the Ghost'

In 2021, Dubai Police helped in arresting Moufide ‘Mouf’ Bouchib, a French drug lord who was involved in drug trafficking and smuggling operations across Europe.

Bouchibi, 39, who became an international kingpin known as ‘The Ghost’, was on the run for 10 years. He was using forged documents and travelling under a false identity when Dubai Police arrested him. They used artificial intelligence technology to track him down.

The Frenchman was involved in drug trafficking and smuggling operations across Europe with an estimated annual street value of €70 million (Dh303 million).

3. Amir Faten Mekky

Amir Faten Mekky, leader of an international criminal gang wanted by Interpol, was arrested in Dubai in June 2020.

The Danish national led one of the most dangerous international crime rings involved in murder, drug trafficking and money laundering. Mekky, who was wanted by Interpol, was associated with one of the world's most notorious international criminals, Radwan Al Taghi, the head of the 'Angels of Death' gang, who was arrested in Dubai in December 2019 and handed over to Netherlands.

Intelligence gathered by Dubai State Security revealed that Mekky entered the country on 14 November 2018 using alternative travel documents.

Mekky was also wanted by Spanish authorities for two murders and a series of arson attacks.

He was alleged to be a central figure in the underworld in Malmo, a city in the south of Sweden.

4. Ramon Abbas also known as ‘Ray Hushpuppi’

The Nigerian social media influencer, Ramon Abbas, who called himself Ray Hushpuppi, flaunted a lavish lifestyle fuelled by his efforts to launder millions of stolen dollars. In 2020, he was extradited to the US after being arrested during a raid in Dubai in June. Abbas was one of the most prolific money launderers in the world.

US prosecutors said Abbas and a Canadian man laundered money from various online crimes including bank cyber heists and business email compromise (BEC), a prolific crime in which crooks hack into email accounts, pretend to be someone they’re not, and fool victims into wiring money where it doesn’t belong.

In 2019, he helped launder about $14.7 million stolen by North Korean hackers from a bank in Malta, funnelling the money through banks in Romania and Bulgaria.

He also helped launder millions of pounds stolen from a British company and a professional soccer club in the UK.

Abbas was sentenced in Los Angeles in November, 2022, to more than 11 years in federal prison.

5. Leon Cullen

Leon Cullen, is one of the UK's most wanted men. Cullen, the leader of a firearms-and-cocaine network fled Britain in 2018. He obtained a false passport, and used it over a two-year period before being captured on an international arrest warrant in Dubai in 2020.

He was returned to the UK in February 2021 to face trial.

When Cullen fled Britain in 2018, a significant policing operation began that was built on information from the local community, along with other sensitive networks, that centred on uncovering the identity that he was using to travel.

He was tracked by the British Police using the identity he was using and they were able to work with other law enforcement partners, the National Crime Agency and authorities in the UAE, to establish where he was using those details, which led to his arrest.

He was charged with being the head of a crime group responsible for supplying firearms and drugs. In May 2021, he was sentenced to 22 years and six months in jail.

6. Afzal Khan

Afzal Khan, a former owner of a car dealership in America, was accused of a $1.5 million fraud involving super cars including Lamborghinis, Porsches and Rolls Royces by the FBI.

Scottish-born Khan, also known as Bobby Khan, was apprehended in the UAE, after he surrendered himself at the US embassy in Abu Dhabi. He was later flown from the UAE to New Jersey in February 2020 to face trial.

Khan, had been on the FBI’s most wanted ‘white collar criminals’ list for five years.

In 2015, Khan was charged with five counts of wire fraud. He is said to have fraudulently obtained 21 loans totalling more than $1.5m, but has been on the run ever since.


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