Ukrainian authorities announced Friday the arrest of 12 people who are suspected of belonging to an organ-trafficking ring headed by an Israeli. The network supplied human organs to Israelis who had ordered them in advance, according to the authorities.
During a press conference in Kiev, the head of the Interior Ministry's department on human trafficking, Yuriy Kucher, said the scheme to recruit organ donors from former Soviet countries and transplant the organs into wealthy foreigners was headed by an Israeli citizen who was arrested last month.
Kucher said Thursday that recruiters sought mostly kidneys from people in Ukraine and other countries. Most of those who eventually donated organs were impoverished young women, paid up to $10,000.
Surgeries were performed in Kyiv, Azerbaijan and Ecuador, he said. The surgeries cost up to $200,000 apiece.
According to an initial investigation, the ring's profits totaled an estimated $18 million a year. The network's members earned more than $40 million collectively.
All of the suspects have been charged with human trafficking and face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
In April the Israeli State Prosecution filed a harsh indictment against 62-year old Brigadier-General (res.) Meir Zamir from Rishon Lezion, who is suspected of heading a gang of organ traffickers that raked in millions of shekels. Also charged, along with Zamir, who received a gallantry medal during the Yom Kippur War, were brothers Michael and Yaakov Golob, age 40 and 34, Shlomi Biton, 31, and Netanel Moyal, 34.
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