An Eritrean Mered Medhanie 35, known as “The General” who was believed to have been the heart of the operation to smuggle migrants was held in Sudan in May and was flown to Rome on Tuesday June 2016.
Britain’s National Crime Agency says he is thought to have arranged the transit of a boat that sank near the Italian island of Lampedusa in October 2013.
At least 359 migrants died when the boat, travelling from Libya, capsized.
Prosecutors accuse Medhanie of running the network alongside an Ethiopian accomplice, who is still at large.
The two men are accused of buying up kidnapped migrants from other gangs and sending those migrants on barely seaworthy ships across the Mediterranean towards Europe.
In the recordings, he estimates he has smuggled 7,000 or 8,000 people. In one, he is reportedly heard laughing at the overloading of migrant boats.
The UK’s National Crime Agency said it had tracked him down to an address in Khartoum, where he was then arrested.
Medhanie is expected to appear in court on Wednesday.
- The 39-year-old Eritrean once lived in Italy, where he came under the radar of anti-mafia investigators after trying to open a bank account in Dubai
- Later moved to Libya, where most African migrants start the treacherous journey to Europe, and finally to Sudan, where he was arrested
- His wife and family live in Sweden
- Called “the General”, as he styled himself on late Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi
- Said to have driven around in a tank and boasted: “Nobody is stronger than me”
- Amount of money that went through him estimated in the billions