Carabinieri police during an anti-trafficking operation | Photo: ANSA/CARABINIERI
Carabinieri police during an anti-trafficking operation | Photo: ANSA/CARABINIERI

A man has been arrested in Greece in connection to the death of a young migrant in central Italy. The Pakistani national has been charged with conspiracy to traffic immigrants and disposing of a body.

Italian Carabinieri police and their Greek counterparts arrested Irfan Ali, a 33-year-old Pakistani national, in Greece last week. The suspect is currently being detained in Greece and will be extradited to Italy soon, investigative sources said.

Ali is suspected of disposing of the dead body of Maalik Hussain. The 27-year-old migrant had been discovered in a ditch, his naked body covered with branches, in the central Italian town of San Giovanni in Marignano on September 7, 2018.

'I am dying here brother Irfan'

Audio messages sent to Ali by Hussain led to the arrest. 

"I am dying here brother Irfan, where are you," he said in a message. 

Investigators believe Hussain paid Ali to smuggle him into Italy. The 27-year-old was working as a shepherd in Kropia, a town in Greece. He was reportedly hoping to eventually join his cousin in Finland. 
Hussain asked his father to lend him 5,000 euros allegedly requested by traffickers to take him to a horse-riding center in San Giovanni in Marignano in Italy, according to investigative sources. 

Police think that Hussain was left inside the horse van used for the trip for too long, causing him to die of asphyxiation.

Greek citizen wanted by police 

Hussain's family contacted Italian police last year, when reports revealed that the decomposed remains of a man had been found. Investigators identified Hussain as the victim and, through his cell phone, were able to also identify five Pakistani nationals who were previously taken to Italy by Irfan Ali.

The suspect allegedly used his job as a groom for several jockeys in Greece to traffic migrants inside the vans used to take horses to competitions in Italy. 

Investigators however believe Ali was not driving the van when Hussain died but a Greek citizen who has not been identified yet. Police are still not sure whether the driver was aware that the migrant was on board and whether he was being paid for the job. 

Text to mother: 'I can't breathe'

Hussain reportedly did not just contact Ali from the horse van. He also wrote one last desperate message to his mother - "I'm sorry my trip abroad has failed. I'm dying, I can't breathe" - much like Vietnamese migrant Pham Thi Tra My, one of the 39 people found dead in a refrigerated trailer in Essex, who also wrote her mom a text, saying that she couldn't breathe.  

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