Israeli Wanted for Role in Kosovo Organ Trading Ring

At least nine people, including a former senior Health Ministry official and two Israelis, are suspected of involvement in an international network that falsely promised poor people payment for their kidneys, then sold the organs for as much as 100,000 euros, according to an indictment obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

The indictment is the starkest revelation of the extent of organized crime in the country since Kosovo declared independence in 2008.

The group trafficked people into Kosovo for the purpose of removing human organs for transplant, EU prosecutor Jonathan Ratel said in the indictment, which he filed in mid-October. Some 20 foreign nationals "were recruited with false promises of payments" in 2008, he wrote.

Victims were promised up to $20,000, while recipients were required to pay between 80,000 and 100,000 euros.

Moshe Harel is one of seven people indicted and wanted by Interpol, along with five Kosovars, including former Health Ministry official Ilir Rrecaj, and a Turkish doctor, Yusuf Sonmez. The five Kosovars were charged with five counts, ranging from trafficking in persons to unlawful exercise of medical activity and abuse of power. None of the suspects are in custody.

Another two doctors, Israeli Zaki Shapira and Turkish national Kenan Demirkol, are identified in the 46-page document as "unindicted co-conspirators."

According to the indictment obtained by the AP on Thursday, the victims came from Moldova, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkey, and lived in "extreme poverty or acute financial distress."

The EU prosecution has made requests to secure evidence from authorities in Canada, Germany, Kazakhstan and Turkey, including access to e-mails of two suspects on servers in the United States.

The prosecution alleges that one of those indicted, Kosovo surgeon Lutfi Dervishi, was the ringleader of the criminal group. It said Dervishi attended a medical conference in Istanbul in 2006 and asked for someone who could perform organ transplants. He was contacted by Dr. Yusuf Sonmez six months later.

Dervishi and Sonmez then carried out the operations in the private medical clinic Medicus, managed by Dervishi's son, Arban Dervishi, who was also indicted. Harel was involved in "identifying, recruiting and transporting victims" and "ensuring the delivery of cash payments by electronic bank transfer" prior to surgery, the indictment said. Two other doctors, Sokol Hajdini and Driton Jilta, were also indicted.

Kosovo law forbids the removal and transplant of organs.

In 2008, investigators closed the private health clinic where the doctors worked as part of the initial investigation.

When police searched the clinic in November 2008, they found an Israeli citizen in postoperative care, according to the indictment. Police seized medical records and supplies.

The indictment has been filed in a local court and a hearing is scheduled for the end of the month, according to EU officials.