Four Israelis Arrested in Brazil, S. Africa for Organ Trafficking

Police in northeastern Brazil have arrested two Israelis and nine Brazilians suspected of participation in an international human organ trafficking organization stretching from South America to South Africa. In South Africa, Durban police have arrested two additional Israelis.

The group, allegedly led by the Israelis, is believed to have scoured the cities of Pernambuco state over the past year searching for candidates willing to sell their kidneys, authorities said.

"In all, they managed to talk 30 men into selling one of their kidneys," Wilson Salles Damazio, head of the local Federal Police office, said from his office in the state capital of Recife, 2,150 kilometers northeast of Sao Paulo. "Each one received between $6,000 and $10,000."

Damazio said an investigation was being conducted to determine the extent of the trafficking.

"Those that passed a thorough medical checkup were sent to Durban, South Africa where their kidney was extracted," Damazio said. "After a brief recovery period they were flown back to Brazil."

The case also was being investigated in South Africa, where two other Israelis were arrested in Durban, said a spokeswoman for police there, Mary Martins-Engelbrecht.

The Israelis arrested in Durban were identified as Agania Robel, 42, who allegedly received a kidney, and Meir Shushan, 50, who allegedly acted as a middleman.

They appeared in the Durban Magistrates Court on Wednesday on charges of contravening the Human Tissue Act and must appear again in February, Martins-Engelbrecht said. They were released on bail but their passports have been confiscated, she said.

"We cannot exclude the possibility of more arrests. Our investigations are still continuing," she said.

Brazilian authorities didn't identify the suspects they arrested. Damazio said they could be sentenced to up to 15 years in jail.

The 30 men who sold their kidneys could also sentenced to up to eight years in jail.