Egyptian authorities have announced the arrest of 25 members of an international network allegedly trafficking in human organs, including university professors and doctors.
“Today at dawn, the largest international network for trading human organs has been captured,” the country’s Administrative Control Authority said in a statement on Tuesday.
The network “is made up of Egyptians and Arabs taking advantage of some of the citizens’ difficult economic conditions so that they buy their human organs and sell it for large sums of money,” it said.
The authority, which is responsible for tracking corruption cases in state institutions, said 25 people were arrested including university professors, doctors, medical workers, owners of medical centres, intermediaries and brokers.
They were found in possession of “millions of dollars and gold bullion”, it said.
Ten medical centres and laboratories, both licensed and unlicensed, had been searched and the authorities had found documents related to the charge and computers with trading information.
Egypt’s parliament passed a law in 2010 banning commercial trade in organs as well as transplants between Egyptians and foreigners, except in cases of husband and wife.
The law aimed to regulate organ transplants in a bid to curb illegal trafficking and tourism for such operations.
But many recipients and donors still find a way to get around the law. Falsifying family relationships in order to arrange for organ transplants is not difficult in Egypt, as officials do not always look thoroughly into the paperwork required to prove kinship.
[The network] is made up of Egyptians and Arabs taking advantage of some of the citizens’ difficult economic conditions so that they buy their human organs and sell it for large sums of money.
According to the United Nations, hundreds of poor Egyptians sell their kidneys and livers each year to be able to buy food or pay off debts.A World Health Organisation coordinator at the time, Luc Noel, named Egypt that year as one of the top five countries in illegal organ trade.
“The accused who were arrested exploited the economic situation of some Egyptians and the suffering of some patients and their need for treatment to take large financial sums from them,” the health ministry said in a statement.
In 2012, then UN refugee agency chief Antonio Guterres said some migrants in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula were being “killed for the traffick of organs”.