During a routine passport check at Rome's
Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport, the identity of a seemingly harmless old man raised the suspicion of Italian airport security personnel.
After running the man's name through the system, officials were shocked to discover he was one of the most wanted organ traffickers
in the world.
Gedalia Tauber, 77 – a Holocaust survivor, an ex-Shayetet 13
soldier and formerly the head of Tel Aviv District Police's fraud
investigation unit – is suspected of cooperating with a number of Brazilian nationals in orchestrating an international organ smuggling ring spreading from Brazil
to South Africa
Together with his South American coconspirators, Tauber is suspected of harvesting and trading in the organs of some 19 Brazilians.
In January 2002 an international warrant for his arrest was issued by a Brazilian court and in 2003 he was arrested in the country and sentenced to 11 years for his role in the ring.
According to details attained by the police during Tauber's investigation, the ring offered $6,000-12,000 per kidney donation,
and all of the medical procedures involved took place in South Africa.
Tauber was scheduled for release in September 2012, however, during a 30-day furlough in 2009 he escaped, and has been on the lam since then with all traces of his whereabouts lost – until now, with his sudden reappearance in Rome this weekend.
According to the Italian police,
who noted that no Italian citizens were involved in the ring, the ring itself was not involved in murder to attain the organs.
According to Brazilian media, the ring enlisted poor Brazilians, enticing them to "donate" their organs for relatively small amount of money and then, together with an additional Israeli conspirator, the ring allegedly sold the organs to Israel, which had no knowledge of their shady origins for close to 20-times the amount paid to the donator.
Tauber's son, who resides in Israel, refused to comment on his father arrest, saying "I have nothing to say at his point."
Meir Turgeman contributed to this report
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