Israeli suspected in organ trafficking arrested in Cyprus
Moshe Harel was accused by Kosovo of illegal medical procedures, organized crime in 2011, with Interpol issuing warrant for his arrest; located in Cyprus, Kosovo police seeks his extradition to stand trial; Harel allegedly part of organ trafficking ring arranging kidney transplants for rich Israelis.
An Israeli citizen accused of involvement in a human organ trafficking scandal in Kosovo a decade ago has been arrested in Cyprus and the authorities in Kosovar capital of Pristina have requested his extradition to face trial, police said on Friday.
A European Union prosecutor announced in 2011 that the Israeli, Moshe Harel, and a Turkish doctor named Yusuf Sonmez were accused of performing illegal medical procedures and involvement in organized crime in the southeastern European country. The pair is also wanted Interpol and international warrant for their arrest has been issued.
Harel was arrested and questioned in 2008, but refused authorization to leave Kosovo and return to Israel, pending the investigation's requirements. Kosovo authorities also stated Sonmez's current whereabouts were unknown.
Harel and Sonmez's network was exposed in 2008, when Kosovar police raided the clinic in which the operations were performed following suspicions that a Turkish man had sold his kidney to an Israeli citizen. He was found after the operation in the Pristina airport when he attempted to board a plane to Turkey, and was hospitalized.
Police accuse Harel of seeking out people in need of kidney transplants and of luring donors to Kosovo from Turkey and the ex-Soviet Union with the promise of up to 12,000 euros ($14,500) in payment.
Recipients, mainly Israelis but also some in Canada and Poland, paid between 80,000 and 100,000 euros for the organs. Some donors never received any money.
"Based on an international arrest warrant the suspect M.H. was arrested a few days ago in Cyprus. He has been a wanted person since 2010," police spokesman Baki Kelani told Reuters.
Russia has also issued an international arrest warrant for Harel, who was arrested in Israel in 2012 in connection with a parallel investigation, but was not extradited to Kosovo, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel.
The director of the clinic where the operations were performed, urologist Lutfi Dervishi, was sentenced to eight years in jail for organized crime and human trafficking and his son Arban for seven years in 2013, though both men went into hiding and have not served their sentences.
In 2016 a Kosovo court ordered a retrial of doctors and officials convicted of involvement in the case and that trial is still ongoing. They have all denied any wrongdoing.
Police said Lutfi Dervishi had been recaptured last year and was among those now being retried. His son and Turkish doctor Sonmez are still at large.