A gag order lifted on Tuesday revealed that a Beersheba resident is suspected of mediating between women in their 40s in need of kidney transplants and 18-20-year old girls who served as 'donors' in return for NIS 20,000 ($5733) for their 'donation'. According to suspicions, the medical procedure itself took place in Turkey.
Police are still searching for the main suspect and two other "accomplices", and are simultaneously checking how many young girls were lured into such deals.
About a month ago, one set of parents discovered that their 18-year-old daughter had traveled to Turkey and was expected to undergo a surgery that would remove her kidney in exchange for money. After noticing certain details on their daughter's Facebook page, the parents contacted the police and eventually managed to bring the operation to a halt, and return the girl to Israel, after a three-day-stay in Turkey.
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A joint operation carried out by Negev District Police and authorities in Turkey revealed that the woman who was supposed to receive the kidney was a dual American and Israeli citizen and had since returned to the United States. During the investigation, the young girl said that she had been under severe pressure to go through with the procedure.
Investigators further discovered that an additional young woman had undergone a kidney removal operation in the same hospital where the complainants' daughter was scheduled to have her operation.
The officers' investigation uncovered that additional players were involved in the affair: Two "sellers", a "buyer" and a doctor who conducted compatibility examinations on the girls prior to their flight to Turkey.
The latter, a resident of the central Israel, admitted he had carried out the tests during questioning, but claimed that he did not receive anything in exchange for the service, and was released. According to suspicions, the Turkish hospital received a NIS 300,000 ($85984) fee for each procedure.
Both parties involved in the affair – both sellers and buyers – denied any allegations that linked between them. They further denied accusations that they were involved in the trafficking of human organs and the transferring of funds, but the investigation was able to link between them and the "middleman", and discovered that NIS 20,000 ($5733 ) were transferred to one of the girls.
Additional evidence showed that the same amount of funds was transferred to another young woman also involved in the case.
A police source said that "the donors talked about making contact through the internet and told of personal acquaintance with the recipients. They said that the development of an emotional connection had led to their decision to donate a kidney, and described the situation as a type of aid and assistance to people who are in distress."
One young woman told, for example, that she donated a kidney to a woman in her 50s because she felt sorry for her. She expressed sorrow for her actions during the investigation, saying she had acted wrongly and that she knows that the woman paid for the procedure.
"A significant element of this story is emotion, and it is not entirely disconnected from reality, as the people involved have very difficult medical conditions," the police source stressed.
The police claim that the main suspect was assisted by two other people who had connected between the young girls and the women. A special investigation team is now examining whether the incidents are part of a network of organ trafficking or a local organization. Meanwhile, the main suspect himself, who is known to the police, has fled.
According to the investigation, the activities had been an organized activity that operated in different countries, and in its initial stage, young women, mostly unmarried and under severe financial distress, were tracked down. They were then lured into receiving tens of thousands of dollars, while the patient in need of the organ had paid a much greater sum.
"We don't know the entire chain of the process yet. We assume that several people from here (Israel) target young women who are in need of money. After the procedure is over, they regret it, but the organ is already out of their body and there is no way back," a police source said.