Six people were arrested on Wednesday by the police’s Northern Fraud Branch for allegedly misleading people into donating their organs in exchange for false promises of money, and for arranging dangerous organ transplants abroad that resulted in medical complications for recipients.
The suspects included Brig.-Gen. (res.) Meir Zamir, 62, of Rishon Lezion, and two lawyers – named by police as Natanel Moyal, 34, of Ashkelon, and Eliyahu Rafaeli, 77. Other suspects included Kobi Glob, 34, of Or Yehuda, Shlomi Biton, 34, of Ashkelon, and his girlfriend Yafit Shukrun, 36, of Ramle.
The ring allegedly placed ads in local newspapers promising $100,000 to kidney donors. In some cases, those allegedly duped by the ads were paid only $10,000, while in other cases, the organ donors received no money at all.
In 2008, the Knesset outlawed organ trafficking and the earning of profit on organ transplants. The law stipulates that all organ transplants must be carried out by the National Transplant and Organ Donation Center.
“The suspects looked for people in financial distress,” Ch.-Supt. Ezer Yehuda, of the police’s Fraud Branch, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
“We began investigating the ring several months ago after receiving a complaint by a woman who said she had been paid $4,000 instead of the promised $100,000 for donating her kidney,” Yehuda said. “They found innocent people and stole their kidneys.”
According to Yehuda, donors and organ recipients were often flown together from Israel to Ecuador, Azerbaijan and the Philippines, where the transplants were carried out without proper medical supervision.
“As a result, some of the donors are suffering from medical complications and are classed as being lightly disabled,” Yehuda said.
A number of the suspects have previous convictions for narcotics and property crimes, police said.
“This is the most severe case involving organ transplants we know of,” asserted Yehuda.