Still clad in his white lab coat, Dr. Francisco José Mora was marched out of his office at San José’s Calderón Guardia Hospital on Tuesday morning by three agents from the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ). Mora, the head of the hospital’s nephrology department, is now in a jail cell suspected with running a transnational organ trafficking ring with links to Israel and Eastern Europe.
“Doctor Mora was the general coordinator of the entire international operation,” said Jorge Chavarría, Costa Rica’s chief prosecutor, in a press conference at the OIJ on Tuesday. “He did everything from interviewing donors to financing tests to determine compatibility.”
Police began investigating Mora in September after a nurse reported an unauthorized transfer of a medical team from Calderón Guardia to a private clinic. The OIJ also arrested a police officer with the last name Cordero who is suspected of finding and convincing donors to sell organs to Mora.
Prosecutors have identified at least three people who allegedly were paid approximately $10,000 each for their kidneys through Mora’s organization. Chavarría indicated that the organ recipients who have been identified were all Israeli.
The online Costa Rican daily crhoy.com reported that one donor, a Tica, died during a layover on her return from Israel after selling an organ.
According to Chavarría, Mora’s team performed transplants in Israel and Eastern Europe as well as at two private San José clinics, Bíblica and Católica. Since Mora’s arrest, police have searched both clinics as well as seven other sites including Mora’s home and a private clinic he operated a block away from the hospital.
Though no other organizations have been identified, Chavarría said there is evidence that organ trafficking is occurring in other countries in Central America.
The arrests come three weeks after an article published in the Mexican newspaper El Universal that described groups using Costa Rica’s medical tourism industry as a front for “transplant tourism.”