The Ukrainian authorities announced Friday the arrest of 12 people, most of them Israelis, belonging to an organ-trafficking ring headed by an Israeli woman.
The network supplied human organs to Israelis who had ordered them in advance, according to the authorities. Four surgeons are among the arrested. The Israeli head of the ring was arrested last month.
Ukrainian authorities added that the gang members were arrested for taking part in a scheme to recruit organ donors from Ukraine and other former Soviet countries via the Internet and transplant the organs into Israeli wealthy individuals who had ordered them in advance.
The network, which sought mostly kidneys, offered as much as $10,000 per body part and according to Ukraine’s interior ministry most of the organ donors were impoverished young women.
The head of the ministry’s department on human trafficking, Yuriy Kucher, said the transplant surgeries, which cost up to $200,000 an operation, were performed in Kiev, Azerbaijan and Ecuador.
Initial investigations revealed that the ring’s profits totaled an estimated $18 million a year. The illegal network has been operating for three years.
Those arrested could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of human organ trafficking.
Before this scandal, two Israeli organ rings were earlier discovered inside Israel and the US and their news was widely covered by the media.