Israeli customs officers played key role in exposing organ trafficking ring

June 25, 2013

Customs officers at Ben-Gurion Airport played a crucial role in uncovering the international organ trafficking network that led to the arrests of two Costa Ricans last week, reported the Israeli newspaper Haaretz over the weekend.

Costa Rica is preparing to request the cooperation of Israeli authorities to expand the investigation in hopes of finding more evidence against the organ trafficking operation, according to the Prosecutor’s Office. The entity added that there was a possibility that Costa Rican investigators may travel to Israel as part of the case.

According to Haaretz, a couple from Costa Rica arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in March claiming the reason for their visit was to donate an organ to an Israeli citizen. Passport control officers refused the couple entry and sent them back to Costa Rica on another plane. 

Israeli authorities contacted Interpol who passed the information on to Costa Rican authorities. Tico police opened an investigation and interviewed the couple about the payments they were promised in exchange for a kidney. Their statement led to the arrest of Dr. Francisco José Mora Palma, head of nephrology at the Calderón Guardia Hospital, in San José last week.

Both Dr. Mora and Mauren Cordero Solano, a communications officer with the police arrested in connection with the investigation, appeared before a judge last Wednesday who remanded them to six months preventative detention.

The private Clínica Bíblica, one of the hospitals where Dr. Mora had a private practice, released a statement last Friday stating that the facility refused to allow the suspect to conduct a surgery there in April after they became aware of the investigation. The clinic added that they are cooperating with the police.

The Prosecutor’s Office has remained tight lipped about the investigation, citing that organ trafficking cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute. So far, official sources have confirmed three cases of alleged organ trafficking where “donors” were paid up to $20,000 for their kidney.

Haaretz reported that kidneys are sold for as much as $200,000 on the black market.

Estimates from the World Health Organization suggest that there are more kidney transplants performed by population in Costa Rica than any other Latin American or Caribbean nation.   

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