MUMBA – Indian police
are investigating a major organ trade racket after they arrested
two men, including an alleged kingpin, at Mumbai airport for
trafficking poor people for their kidneys to Egypt, officials
said on Monday.

The men – identified as Nizamuddin and Suresh Prajapati –
were arrested last week and have been charged with human
trafficking, police said.

Prajapati, known to police as a “kidney kingpin”, had been
arrested by police in southern Telangana state last year on
suspicion of trafficking nearly 60 people to Sri Lanka for their
kidneys and was out on bail.

“We were alerted by an immigration official at the Mumbai
international airport who found three passports on one of them.
One passport belonged to a donor they were arranging to take to
Egypt,” said senior inspector Lata Shirsath.

“They have taken six people between May and July and kidney
transplants in four cases were already done. We spoke to the
hospital in Cairo and asked them not to go ahead with the two
remaining transplant procedures.”

Police said they suspected there were more agents involved
in the trade as the duo had arranged donors from Delhi, Jammu,
Hyderabad and Kerala, who were being sent on tourist visas to
Cairo.

The recipients too were from different parts of India who
flew to Cairo to undergo the transplant procedure to beat
India’s rules that do not allow commercial trade in organs.

Police in Telangana state who are coordinating with Mumbai
police on the case said Prajapati recruited former kidney donors
to work as agents to scout for more donors.

In India, the waiting list for organs is long, as donations
are few, which has led to black market trade.

According to government data, 200,000 people are on waiting
lists for kidneys in India every year and 30,000 for liver
transplants. Legal donations meet about 3 to 5 percent of the
demand.

Some waitlisted patients, in desperation, seek the services
of middlemen to arrange organs for money. The middlemen scout
villages for potential donors, whom they sometimes lure with
money and false promises of a job in the city.

Police said the recipients paid 3 million Indian rupees
($47,000) to the two agents for arranging the kidney, of which
the donors were paid 500,000 Indian rupees (around $8,000).

“Because …organ donations are scrutinised closely in
India, it is difficult to make such donations here,” said Anil
Kumar, who heads India’s organ transplant programme.

With a shortage of organ donors globally, “transplant
tourism” is rife in South Asia, especially in Pakistan’s Punjab,
with criminal networks using agents overseas to fly in
foreigners needing organs.
($1 = 63.9300 Indian rupees) – Thomson Reuters Foundation