Police arrest Israeli organ smuggling ‘mastermind’

Picture shows the Medicus Clinic on the outskirts of Pristina, which was used by Moshe Harel, an Israeli ringleader of a global gang of organ traffickers, to organize dozens of illegal kidney transplants. (AFP)
Updated 06 January 2018
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Police arrest Israeli organ smuggling ‘mastermind’

PRISTINA: The Israeli ringleader of a global gang of organ traffickers has been arrested in Cyprus, Kosovan police said on Saturday.
Moshe Harel is suspected of organizing dozens of illegal kidney transplants at the Medicus clinic in the capital Pristina in 2008, and is the man being held, according to local media.
“The suspect whose initials are MH was arrested a few days ago in Cyprus following an international arrest warrant” from Pristina, Kosovan police spokesman Baki Kelani told AFP.
Harel has been hunted by the authorities for almost a decade for exploiting victims, often recruited from poor areas in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, by promising €15,000 ($18,000) for their organs.
Recipients, mainly Israelis, would pay up to €100,000 for the transplant.
The organ trafficking network came to light in 2008 after a Turkish man collapsed at Pristina airport after having a kidney removed.
Police raided the Medicus clinic, which shut following the scandal.
In 2013, an EU-led court in Kosovo sentenced five Kosovan doctors to up to eight years in prison for organ trafficking in the country.
Donors, whose organs were illegally removed, were left without proper medical care and treated “like waste,” prosecutors said at the time of the trial.
The Supreme Court of Kosovo annulled the verdict in 2016 and ordered a new trial, which is ongoing.
The indictment named Harel as the trafficking network’s mastermind, while Turkish doctor Yusuf Ercin Sonmez — labelled by Kosovo media as the “Turkish Frankenstein” and still on the run — was suspected of performing the transplants at the clinic.


Seoul: North Korea withdrew staff from liaison office

Updated 22 March 2019
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Seoul: North Korea withdrew staff from liaison office

  • The second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North
  • The South Korean statement calls the North’s decision “regrettable”

SEOUL: North Korea abruptly withdrew its staff from an inter-Korean liaison office in the North on Friday, Seoul officials said.
The development will likely put a damper on ties between the Koreas and complicate global diplomacy on the North’s nuclear weapons program. Last month, the second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said that North Korea informed South Korea of its decision during a meeting at the liaison office at the North Korean border town of Kaesong on Friday.
The North said it “is pulling out with instructions from the superior authority,” according to a Unification Ministry statement. It didn’t say whether North Korea’s withdrawal of staff would be temporary or permanent.
According to the South Korean statement, the North added that it “will not mind the South remaining in the office” and that it would notify the South about practical matters later. Seoul’s Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters that South Korea plans to continue to staff the Kaesong liaison office normally and that it expects the North will continue to allow the South Koreans to commute to the office. He said Seoul plans to staff the office with 25 people on Saturday and Sunday.
The South Korean statement calls the North’s decision “regrettable.” It said South Korea urges the North to return its staff to the liaison office soon.
The liaison office opened last September as part of a flurry of reconciliation steps. It is the first such Korean office since the peninsula was split into a US-backed, capitalistic South and a Soviet-supported, socialist North in 1945. The Koreas had previously used telephone and fax-like communication channels that were often shut down in times of high tension.
The town is where the Korea’s now-stalled jointly run factory complex was located. It combined South Korean initiatives, capital and technology with North Korea’s cheap labor. Both Koreas want the US to allow sanctions exemptions to allow the reopening of the factory park, which provided the North with much-needed foreign currency.