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Organ trafficking suspects named

A European Union prosecutor has named seven suspects in connection with an international organ trafficking network.

The indictment is the starkest revelation of the extent of organised crime in Kosovo since the country declared independence in 2008.

In the document, EU prosecutor Jonathan Ratel said "the organised criminal group" trafficked people into Kosovo for the purpose of removing "human organs for transplant to other persons". It added that the investigation found that some 20 foreign nationals "were recruited with false promises of payments" in 2008.

"These victims were recruited in other countries, then transported and received at Pristina Airport through the false promise of payments for the removal of their kidneys," Mr Ratel said in the indictment.

He said victims were promised up to £12,500 while recipients were required to pay between £69,000 and £85,600.

According to the indictment, the victims came from Moldova, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkey and lived in "extreme poverty or acute financial distress".

Five Kosovo nationals, including Ilir Rrecaj, a former senior health ministry official, have been charged with five counts ranging from trafficking in persons to unlawful exercise of medical activity and abuse of power. None of the suspects are in custody.

Police launched a raid triggered by suspicions that a Turkish man had sold his kidney to an Israeli recipient. Rrecaj was sacked from his governmental post after the raids. The suspects denied the accusations when initially detained in 2008.

A preliminary hearing is expected to be held by the end of the month, they said.

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