Egyptian authorities have announced the arrest of 25 members of an international network allegedly trafficking in human organs, including university professors and doctors, reports The Times.
“Today at dawn, the largest international network for trading human organs has been captured,” the country’s Administrative Control Authority is quoted in the report as saying. The network “is made up of Egyptians and Arabs taking advantage of some of the citizens’ difficult economic conditions so that they buy their human organs and sell it for large sums of money,” it said.
The authority, which is responsible for tracking corruption cases in state institutions, said 25 people were arrested including university professors, doctors, medical workers, owners of medical centres, intermediaries and brokers. They were found in possession of “millions of dollars and gold bullion”, it said. Ten medical centres and laboratories had been searched and the authorities had found documents related to the charge and computers with trading information.
The report says Egypt’s parliament passed a law in 2010 banning commercial trade in organs as well as transplants between Egyptians and foreigners, except in cases of husband and wife. A World Health Organisation coordinator at the time, Luc Noel, named Egypt that year as one of the top five countries in illegal organ trade. The law aimed to regulate organ transplants in a bid to curb illegal trafficking and tourism for such operations.
According to the UN, hundreds of poor Egyptians sell their kidneys and livers each year to be able to buy food or pay off debts. In 2012, then UN refugee agency chief Antonio Guterres said some migrants in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula were being “killed for the traffic of organs”.
The investigation focused on a group of private hospitals and health centres, both licensed and unlicensed, where transplants and organ harvesting allegedly took place, reports Deutsche Welle. The facilities were shut down and the doctors suspended, pending the investigation.
Some of the doctors arrested worked in the medical faculties of well-known institutions such as Cairo Univeristy and Ain Shams University.
The report says the ministry did not specify the scale of the operation or the amount of money seized.