The trial of four doctors and a pizzeria owner accused of running an illegal organ trafficking ring began on Monday in San Jose.
The five allegedly sought out people willing to sell their kidneys for between US$6,000 and US$20,000, mostly to Israelis, but also to European clients willing to pay as much as US$100,000 each.
Among the accused are Jose Francisco Mora Palma, who was head of the Nephrology department of the Calderón Guardia Hospital for the past 13 years up to his arrest. The Fiscalia (Prosecutor’s Office) alleges Mora Palma as the leader of the organ trafficking group.
The other three doctors accused are urologists Fabian Fonseca Guzman and Massimiliano Anunzia Mauro Stamati, and peripheral vascular specialist Victor Hugo Monge.
The fifth accused, Dimosthenis Katsigiannis Karkasi, of Greek origin and who operated a pizzeria near the Calderon Guardia hospital, a public hospital, is alleged to be the person to find potential organ “donors”, people with financial problems and connecting them with the doctors.
The organ trafficking ring was busted in 2013, following an investigation that began in 2009. It is alleged that the group carried out 14 kidney transplants.
Supposedly, among Mora Palma’s tasks was to interview the kidney donors and financing the exams to confirm compatibility with the organ recipient.
Surgeries were allegedly carried out in two private clinics, under the cover of medical tourism. In other international media, such as Spain’s El País, several Costa Ricans were taken to Israel to sell their kidneys.
This trial is being held the Courts of Justice of San José, and expected to run until November 30. Presiding is the judging panel of Lorena Blanco, Laura Sánchez, Irena Barrantes and Omar White, confirmed the Fiscalia’s press office.
If convicted, the doctors face a prison sentence of between 8 and 16 years, while the pizzeria owner could spend from 6 to 10 years behind bars.
According to the Fiscalia, in addition to organ trafficking, Mora Palma is also accused of embezzlement against the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social – Costa Rican Social Security Fund- (CCSS) to perform tests necessary for transplants.