A Canadian man testified Friday that he paid €80,000 (US$105,000) to an Israeli national in exchange for a kidney transplant in a Kosovo clinic implicated in an international organ trafficking scandal. According to the prosecution, his testimony helped “crystallize” the operations of organized criminals operating in Kosovo, Moldova, Ukraine, Turkey, Russia and Israel.
Toronto resident Raul Fain, 66, said he sought a kidney in Kosovo after being told he could wait up to 12 years for an organ transplant in his home country. Organ removal and transplant is illegal in Kosovo.
Via video link, Fain was shown photographs of the Medicus clinic, where he confirmed he was taken for his June 2008 surgery.
He told a panel of European Union judges running the court proceedings that he met Israeli citizen Moshe Harel, the man accused of arranging the transplant, in Istanbul. Fain said he, Harel, an elderly German man seeking a transplant, and two Russian women donors flew to Kosovo together.
Fain testified that the women, who were between 30 and 40 years old, were taken in separate cars to the Medicus clinic in Kosovo, where he saw them but never spoke to them. Prosecutor Jonathan Ratel told the court that the Russian women were only two of 20 foreign nationals who were recruited with false promises of payments in 2008.
According to the prosecution, victims were promised €15,100 (US$20,000) per organ, while recipients paid up to €100,000 (US$132,000)
When asked by the prosecution if he thought he had received a kidney from one of the Russian women, Fain replied, “I believe so.”
Fain said he spoke to Turkish doctor Yusuf Sonmez prior to the operation.
“I was asked to shave and injected with what I believe was a form of anesthetic. After about 15 minutes I was wheeled into the operating room,” Fain told the judges.
“I was kind of half asleep already, but I remember it was dark and it was cold. I was lying down on a very, very narrow bed.”
Fain said Sonmez visited every day to check his patients’ progress. He said his five day recovery was “uneventful and faster than expected.”
Sonmez and Harel both remain fugitives. Seven suspects including former Kosovo health secretary Ilir Rrecaj and prominent urologist Lutfi Dervishi, are on trial for participating in an illegal organ trafficking ring.
The indictment alleges that the Medicus clinic conducted 30 illegal kidney removals and transplants.
Ratel said that Fain’s testimony was important because he was able to identify the clinic and the Russian women, while the Russian government was not complying with the requests of the court investigation.
Ratel stressed that despite the fact that “These three persons have been located, identified and provided statements to investigative authorities within the Russian Federation,” the Russian government had not replied to EU requests for legal assistance.
“All I have had through diplomatic channels has been definite silence,” he said.
On Thursday, a Polish man told a similar story to Fain’s via video link from Warsaw. He said that he paid €25,000 (US$33,062) in cash for a kidney at the Medicus clinic.
The man, Tadeusz Sadaj, 56, said he found Dr. Sonmez online while searching for a kidney transplant, met him in Istanbul and then flew with him to Pristina for the surgery.