122 Indonesians victims of illegal organ trade of kidneys – National

Indonesian police are investigating an illegal human organ trafficking involving police and immigration officials on suspicion of aiding a trafficker who sent 122 Indonesians to hospitals in Cambodia to sell their kidneys, police said Tuesday.

Indonesian authorities arrested 12 people, including police officers and immigration officials, on July 19, and police will continue to crack down on human smuggling gangs engaged in the illegal trafficking of human organs, said Hengki Hariyadi, head of general crimes at the Jakarta Police Department.

All 122 victims, including factory workers, teachers and executives, have returned to Indonesia, he said, and police continue to search for many other victims whose testimony is sought by investigative authorities.

“Most of the victims lost their jobs during the pandemic and agreed to sell their organs because they needed money,” said Haryadi, adding that six of the victims are still under medical observation.

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Hariyadi said nine of the suspects are former victims of organ trafficking who are suspected of using social media to lure people across Indonesia into having their kidneys removed in Cambodia. A 10th suspect was charged with sending them to Preakket Melia Hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, for kidney transplant surgery.

He said the suspected group’s illegal trade in human organs since 2019 totaled about Rp24.4 billion (US$1.6 million), with promises of Rp135 million (US$9000) per victim.

Hariyadi said a junior police officer in Bekasi, an immigration officer in Bali and 10 traffickers, three of whom were arrested in Cambodia, were part of a trafficking ring that preyed on vulnerable job seekers.

An immigration officer in Bali was accused of abusing his powers and falsifying documents for victims to travel abroad, and received at least 3 million rupiah ($200) for each person smuggled into Cambodia.

The suspects have been charged with violating Indonesia’s human trafficking laws and face up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to 600 million rupiah ($39,000).

A police officer from the Bekasi Municipal Police Department (initial M only) was allegedly given 612 million rupiah ($40,000) for helping traffickers move to avoid police investigations, and is also accused of obstructing the investigation. Under the 2007 Trafficking in Persons Act, the two police officers face up to five years in prison if convicted.

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Police paraded 12 suspects at a July 20 press conference.

“There was a kidney trafficking trade at the Cambodian state-run Preaket Melia Hospital,” said Krishna Murthy, director of international relations at the National Police. “We have been in contact with the Cambodian police and have been working closely with them.”

The World Health Organization first banned organ payments in 1987, and many countries have since codified the ban into national legislation. In 2008, the WHO estimated that 5% of all transplants performed worldwide were illegal, with living kidneys being the most commonly reported form of organ trafficking.

Besides the illegal trade in human organs, cybercrime, human trafficking and labor abuses are still high in Southeast Asia. Most recently, Philippine authorities launched a massive raid last month to rescue more than 2,700 workers from China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and a dozen other countries who were allegedly tricked into working for fraudulent online gaming sites and other cybercriminal groups.

At a May summit in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia, leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to strengthen cooperation in border control, investigation, law enforcement and prosecution, and repatriation of victims. They also called for improved national prevention efforts, including better public awareness campaigns and greater use of advanced technologies.

© 2023 Canadian Press

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