Illegal kidney auction on Net halted after bids reach pounds 3.6m

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The Independent Online
AN AUCTION for a human kidney held on the Internet was stopped after bidding in the illegal sale reached $5,750,100 (pounds 3.6m). The vendor, calling himself "hchero", from Sunrise, Florida, placed an advert on eBay, an American auction website, reading: "Fully functioning kidney for sale. You can choose either kidney. Buyer pays all transplant and medical costs. Of course, only one for sale, as I need the other one to live. Serious bids only."

The sale of human organs is prohibited by US federal law, punishable by up to five years' prison. Steve Westly, vice- president for marketing at eBay, said yesterday: "We have a zero tolerance for illegal items being sold on the site. People need to know there are very strict penalties."

According to records published on the site, seven would-be purchasers bid and pushed the price to $5,750,100 from "hchero's" starting price of $25,000. The auction was scheduled to end tomorrow.

Details of the kidney were removed from the Web on Thursday after eBay was tipped off by one of its users. The details were replaced by a notice reading: "The item you requested is invalid or no longer on our database."

The eBay site was established in 1995 and 1.3 million people now visit it every day to buy and sell.

Responding to criticism that so many transactions make the site a haven for illegal sales, Mr Westly said: "We have a very active customer support team that is always keeping an eye out for these things ... I suspect this has happened in a number of places, both in newspapers, in the real world, as well as in the online world."

It is not the first time eBay has been used to try to make illegal sales. Two months ago a vendor claiming to have a lot of cocaine invited bids with a reserve price of $2m.

Mr Westly told the BBC World Service yesterday: "From time to time we do see inappropriate items and we move very quickly to make sure the illegal ones are removed ... There are more items traded more safely on our site than at any commercial venue in the real world."

Within hours of the halted sale a second kidney popped up for sale for a minimum $4m. Almost certainly a hoax, it was quickly removed.