One of them, an Eritrean called Mered Medhanie, also known as The General, was heard laughing on a police wiretap about overloading migrant ships, a problem that causes them to capsize.
Medhanie, 34, who is based in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, is said to have boasted: ‘They say I put too many aboard, but they’re the ones who want to leave in a hurry.’
A second trafficker, Ermias Ghermay, who is thought to have made £72million with Medhanie from smuggling in the last two years, also showed callous disregard for the plight of his ‘customers’.
He was heard declaring last summer: ‘They organised another trip a few days ago. I don’t know what happened – they probably died.’
Ghermay, who also lives in Tripoli, was already wanted on an arrest warrant in connection with an October 2013 capsizing off Lampedusa that left 366 dead.
Reports of the conversations come just days after at least 900 people were feared to have drowned in one of the worst maritime disasters since the end of World War Two.
More than 1,700 have perished in the last week alone.
Italian police yesterday released Ghermay’s photofit as they sought to track down the pair, who are among several traffickers wanted in connection with a major human smuggling ring.
Ghermay and Medhanie are currently living undisturbed in Tripoli, exploiting the lawlessness in the collapse state which has allowed smugglers to operate with impunity since the fall of Gaddafi.
Medhanie, who reportedly compares himself to the former Libyan dictator, and his accomplice enjoy the protection of local law authorities in the capital after it was taken over by a rival Islamist faction.