Trial of pizzeria owner, Costa Rican doctors begins in organ trafficking case

September 12, 2017

A trial of four Costa Rican doctors and a Greek pizzeria owner accused of running an illegal organ trafficking ring in Costa Rica began on Monday in San José.

The five members of the ring allegedly sought out people with financial problems who were willing to sell their kidneys for between $6,000 and $20,000, mostly to Israelis but also to European clients willing to pay as much as $100,000 each. Surgeries to remove the organs were allegedly carried out in private clinics in San José.

The trial is expected to run through November 30, with a bench of three judges deciding the verdict.

Read more: Prosecutors charge 5 in organ trafficking ring

According to the prosecution, the ring was led by Francisco José Mora Palma, head of the nephrology unit dealing with kidney diseases at the public Calderón Guardia Hospital in the capital.

The other three doctors accused are urologists Fabian Fonseca Guzmán and Massimiliano Anunzia Mauro Stamati, and peripheral vascular specialist Victor Hugo Monge.

The Greek man, Dimosthenis Katsigiannis Karkasi, was accused of using his pizzeria near the hospital as the place to find and meet with potential organ sellers and linking them up with the doctors in exchange for money. The New York Times took an in-depth look at the international and local aspects of the ring in a 2014 feature.

The five men were arrested in 2013 and are suspected of having illegally carried out 14 kidney transplants. The investigation into the case ended in 2014, and preliminary hearings for the trial started in July 2015.

Prosecutors are set to call on 25 witnesses to substantiate their case, including a former policewoman who is said to have worked with the ring after selling her own kidney, and who agreed to testify against the defendants.

If convicted, the doctors and Katsigiannis Karkasi risk prison. Selling an organ is illegal in Costa Rica. Living organ donations are legal, but only without monetary or other compensation or under duress. The traffic of persons for the purpose of organ harvesting is punishable in Costa Rica by up to 10 years in prison under Article 172 of the Penal Code.

The pizzeria owner could face six to 10 years behind bars if convicted. For the doctors, because the charges involve abusing their professional status to commit a crime, the sentences could be eight to 16 years.

You may be interested

Costa Rican entrepreneur launches swimwear line to empower women
Changemakers
116 views
Changemakers
116 views

Costa Rican entrepreneur launches swimwear line to empower women

Elizabeth Lang - May 24, 2018

María Luisa Mendiola is a young Costa Rican woman living in New York who’s all about creating change in everything…

Costa Rica dismantles international drug trafficking ring
Drug trafficking
128 views
Drug trafficking
128 views

Costa Rica dismantles international drug trafficking ring

AFP - May 24, 2018

Costa Rican authorities dismantled an international cocaine trafficking ring that used fishing boats on the country's southern Pacific coast. The…

Costa Rica’s snakebite research pioneers save lives worldwide
Changemakers
218 views
Changemakers
218 views

Costa Rica’s snakebite research pioneers save lives worldwide

Mitzi Stark - May 23, 2018

The Clodomiro Picado Institute is spread along the main road of Dulce Nombre de Coronado, northeast of San José. Its…