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02-09-08, 05:07 AM #1
Kidney theft suspect arrested in Nepal
The Indian government said Friday it is seeking the extradition of a man accused of heading an organ transplant ring that illegally removed hundreds of kidneys, sometimes from unwilling donors held at gunpoint.
An international manhunt for the fugitive doctor, Amit Kumar, ended Thursday night when police arrested him in Chitwan, a Nepalese jungle resort 100 miles south of Katmandu, local police chief Kiran Gautam said.
Local news reports said he was identified by a hotel employee who recognized him from Indian television broadcasts seen in neighboring Nepal.
Authorities believe up to 500 kidneys were sold to clients who traveled to India from around the world over the last nine years. Some victims were forced onto the operating table at gunpoint, while others were tricked with promises of work, police said last month.
"That is wrong, absolutely wrong. I have not duped anybody," Kumar said when he was briefly brought before reporters in Katmandu.
"I can only say that I have not committed any crime," he said.
While the low cost of medical care in India has made it an increasingly popular destination for foreigners in need of everything from tummy tucks to heart surgery, the case has shocked the country and sparked debates about medical ethics and organ transplant laws.
Kumar has been accused in past organ transplant schemes elsewhere in India. Authorities said last month they believed he had fled the country, and Interpol was contacted for help.
Late Friday, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said investigators already were talking to Nepalese authorities about Kumar's extradition.
But Sarna's comments came hours after Nepalese authorities said Kumar would first be charged and tried there for violating currency laws by not declaring money he was carrying. Kumar had $230,000 in cash and a check for $24,000 when he was arrested.
Police also were investigating whether he was involved in illegal kidney transplants in Nepal. A preliminary investigation suggested Kumar was a frequent visitor to the country and had been looking for land where he could build a hospital for kidney transplants, said Upendra Aryal, a top police officer.
Investigators earlier thought Kumar may have fled to Canada, where Indian police say his wife and two sons live.
The Toronto Star newspaper reported that Kumar's family lives in the Toronto-area suburb of Brampton, where he and his wife bought a house last April for $610,000. The Star said Kumar was last seen there before Christmas.
In January, police raided the operation's main clinic in Gurgaon, an upscale New Delhi suburb, and broke up the ring. Authorities said it spanned five Indian states and involved at least four doctors, several hospitals, two dozen nurses and paramedics and a car outfitted as a laboratory.
Subsequent raids uncovered a kidney transplant waiting list with 48 names. The raid also found five foreigners — three Greeks and two Americans of Indian descent — who authorities believe were waiting for transplants.
Survivors described horrific scenes of being brought to Gurgaon with promises of construction jobs, then being forcibly sedated.
"We have taken your kidney," impoverished day laborer Mohammed Salim said he was told by a masked man after waking from surgery in agonizing pain. "If you tell anyone, we'll shoot you."
Associated Press Writer Binaj Gurubacharya in Katmandu, Nepal contributed to this report.
By MUNEEZA NAQVI, Associated Press Writer Fri Feb 8, 12:29 PM ET
NEW DELHI, India -
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