Kosovo organ trafficking scandal widens

EU prosecutors to  investigate if key government figures were involved

Pristina

EU prosecutors will investigate key government figures in Kosovo for any involvement in an international organ trafficking network that lured poor donors into the country, harvested their kidneys and sold them to wealthy recipients for huge profits, sources close to the case have confirmed.

Shaip Muja, a member of parliament and former health adviser to the current Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, is expected be one of eight people indicted in a second round of investigations into the activities of the Medicus clinic in the Kosovan capital of Pristina, where at least 24 illegal transplants took place in 2008.

Five people were last week found guilty of human trafficking and illegal organ transplants in the first phase of the trial, including the urologist Lutfi Dervishi, the clinic’s director, and his son, Arban, who were sentenced to eight and seven years respectively. It is thought to be the first time in the world that medical doctors have been found complicit in human trafficking and organised crime.

The EU’s rule of law mission, known as Eulex, says it cannot yet confirm the identities of those it is investigating in the second phase. But an amended indictment introduced towards the end of the first trial said the Medicus doctors held “repeated consultations and several meetings with senior officials in the government of Kosovo”, including Mr Muja and the then Minister of Health, Alush Gashi.

Jonathan Ratel, the lead prosecutor, told The Independent: “The new investigation emerges directly out of evidence given in the first trial, including witnesses, as identified in the amended indictment.”

Mr Muja testified during the trial that he had met the doctors, who had applied for a licence to conduct transplants. He denied knowledge of the trafficking ring.

Interpol is still hunting the Turkish surgeon Yusuf Sonmez, dubbed “Dr Frankenstein” in the Turkish media, who is said to have conducted most of the operations at the Medicus clinic. Mr Ratel believes he is continuing his operations in South Africa, having escaped house detention in Istanbul.

The Medicus scandal first came to light in 2008 when a Turkish man collapsed at Pristina airport after selling his kidney at the clinic. It gradually emerged that dozens of impoverished donors had been trafficked into Kosovo from several countries, including Russia, Moldova and Ukraine. Some were paid as little as $10,000 (£8,400) for their kidney, which was then sold to recipients, mostly from Israel, for as much as $130,000.

Expanding investigations to include government figures close to Mr Thaci puts the EU in a difficult position. Sources close to the investigation say there has been a reluctance among top officials in Brussels to press ahead with the organ trafficking trial in case it upsets Kosovo’s fragile transition process.

They claim it is only the determination of individual prosecutors that has kept the trial alive.

“There is a perception Eulex doesn’t want to rock the boat with too many high-level indictments. Stability is priority No 1 for the international community,” said a Western diplomat on condition of anonymity.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Two weeks ago, Serbia agreed to recognise Kosovo’s sovereignty for the first time, but implementing the agreement is fraught with difficulties due to opposition from some of the Serb minority inside Kosovo.

In January, Eulex’s outgoing deputy head of mission, Andy Sparkes, admitted that political pressure was hindering progress on corruption cases. “There are occasions when [stability] can sit uneasily with the requirements of the rule of law,” he told the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.

Meanwhile, there are growing doubts over claims in a 2010 Council of Europe report that members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, including Mr Thaci, who was a senior commander at the time, also engaged in organ trafficking during the 1998-1999 war with Serbia. The report has been widely criticised for its lack of evidence and its author, the prosecutor Dick Marty, refused to appear at the Medicus trial.

“After five years of prosecuting this case, I have not found evidence linking it to allegations of organ trafficking during wartime,” said Mr Ratel.

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice