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SA doctors charged over organ trafficking

Five South African doctors have been charged with performing illegal kidney transplants for rich Israelis using organs bought from poor Brazilians and Romanians, newspapers reported on Thursday.

Also charged was Richard Friedland, head of the country’s top private hospital group Netcare, and the St Augustine Hospital in Durban where prosecutors say 109 illegal operations were conducted between 2001 and 2003, according to the Star.

“Israeli citizens in need of kidney transplants would be brought to South Africa for transplants at St Augustine’s Hospital. They paid kidney suppliers for these operations,” read the charge sheet, according to the Times.

The kidneys “were initially sourced from Israeli citizens, but later Romanian and Brazilian citizens were recruited as their kidneys were obtainable at much lower cost than those of the Israeli suppliers”, it said.

Israelis were paid about $20 000 for their kidneys, while the Brazilians and Romanians were paid an average of $6 000, prosecutors said.

Five years ago South African police tried to bring a case against Israeli Ilan Perry, claimed to be the kingpin behind the syndicate.

That case was never brought forward, but now Perry has turned state witness, the Times said.

Netcare denied any wrongdoing and said it would defend itself against the charges in court. The first court appearance is expected in November.

“After several years of cooperating fully with the South African Service Police and providing the investigating officer with countless affidavits, it has come as a great surprise and disappointment that the prosecuting authority has seen it fit to bring charges” against the firm, it said in a statement.

The charges include 109 counts of fraud and serious assault, as well as forgery and organised crime. — AFP

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