An illegal organ harvesting ring, which surgically removed kidneys from hundreds of patients in Pakistan for wealthy people needing a transplant, has been smashed by police.
Alleged gang leader, identified as ‘Dr Fawad’, is accused of conducting 328 operations on people to cut out their kidney alongside his anaesthetist – an unnamed car mechanic.
Some of the patients whose organs were harvested did not know their kidney was removed, according to police.
The so-called doctor would allegedly sell them to clients for up to 10 million Pakistani rupees (£28,784) each, said Mohsin Naqvi, the chief minister of Punjab province, CNN reports.
He said the gang lured patients from hospitals and performed the operations privately in the region of Taxila, the city of Lahore and in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
“They were able to do this in Kashmir because there is no law regarding kidney transplant, so it was easier for them to carry out the operations there,” Naqvi said.
Three people have died following the operations, according to the chief minister, but authorities were still looking into whether more people have been killed, CNN said.
Fawad had previously been arrested five times but was always released and then continued his operations, Naqvi said.
Police spent almost two months investigating the gang after a man came forward, saying he was convinced by one of the alleged gang members to get medical treatment done privately.
Later, when he reportedly went to another doctor for further treatment, he was told he didn’t have a kidney, according to the chief minister.
Naqvi said he is working with the Inspector General of Police of Punjab to strengthen the country’s cyber laws so adverts for such illegal kidney transplants are banned online.
“Our entire focus is to track other gangs who are operating like this,” he said.
Pakistan made the commercial trade of human organs illegal in 2007.
The country strengthened a law in 2010 that made the harvesting and trafficking of organs punishable by up to ten years in prison and a one million rupee ($3,400) fine.
Before the legislation, the country was a hub for the organ trade for foreigners and wealthy Pakistanis in search of a transplant.
The buying and selling of kidneys was a regular practice, with some impoverished Pakistanis selling their kidneys in order to survive.
But the practice has continued and local media have reported illegal kidney transplants are on the rise in recent years.
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