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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
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

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy