Tuesday 28 September 2021

Doctor and Businessman Found Guilty of Trafficking of Organs and Illegal Transplants

The illegal organ transplant network operated from 2009 to 2013, targeting mainly the poor for kidney donation for transplants to foreigners willing to pay; the network was headed by the head of Nephrology at the Calderón Guardia Hospital.

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A doctor and a pizzeria owner were found guilty and sentenced on Monday for the trafficking of human organs and illegal transplants.

San Jose criminal court Judge Lorena Blanco reading the sentence Monday afternoon. Photo Albert Marín, La Nacion

The two targeted poor people to sell their kidneys for transplants to foreigners, mainly Isreali nationals.

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The Tribunal Penal del Primer Circuito Judicial de San José (San Jose Criminal Court) found businessman, Dimostenes Katsigiannis, who ran a pizzeria in the area of the Calderon Guardia hospital, was sentenced to eight years in prison.

The Costa Rican doctor, Francisco Mora Palma, 68, was found guilty of conducting illegal transplants, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Meanwhile, doctors Maximiliano Mauro Stamati, Fabián Fonseca Guzmán and Víctor Hugo Monge Monge were acquitted by granting them the benefit of the doubt.

Defense lawyers listening to the reading of the sentence on Monday in the San Jose criminal court. Photo Albert Marin, La Nacion

Mora Palma, was also found guilty of embezzlement, which is linked to the use of public property (in this case, resources of the Calderón Guardia Hospital) for personal use.

With respect to the economic claims raised, the judges only accepted those that were raised in favor of a Turrialmarian couple to whom they will receive ¢15 million colones for moral damages.

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In addition, the convicted must pay ¢2 million colones for procedural expenses in favor of the Office of Civil Defense of the Victim of the Public Ministry.

The prosecutor Ileana Mora Muñoz had requested a prison sentence of 196 years for Mora Palma and 39 years for the Greek businessman.

The two were also ordered to preventive detention for the next eight months, to August 4, 2018, allowing for appeals, failing which the sentences become final.

The case was heard by the three-judge panel composed of Omar White White, Irena Barrantes Mora and Lorena Blanco Jiménez. The guilty verdict of the judges was unanimous.

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As is customary in Costa Rica criminal trials, judges can make commentary on the case at the time of sentencing.

For the judges, it was proven that Francisco Mora Palma used his position as a nephrologist to create a group responsible for recruiting people who were willing to give a kidney in exchange for a payment, which ranged between  ¢3 million and ¢10 million colones.

The acquittal of Mauro, Fonseca and Monge, the judges said there was lack of sufficient evidence produced by the prosecution.

“…the evidence was not sufficient because it was not made clear that these people (Mauro, Fonseca and Monge) had the knowledge and willingness to carry out the crime they are accused of,” said judge Lorena Blanco Jiménez.

Mora Palma had worked 30 years for the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS), and was for 13 years head of the Nephrology service of the Calderón Guardia Hospital.

According to the Fiscalia (Prosecutor’s Office), the recipients of the organs would have paid up to US$140,000 dollars per procedure, from which US$40,000 dollars was to have been paid to the ‘donor’, but these people never received that amount, rather receiving between US$5,000 and US$17,000 dollars.

In total, 14 victims filed a criminal complaint in December 2012.

The group operated between 2009 and 2013. In June 2013, Palma and the other four accused were arrested.



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