India on the trail of doctor at head of kidney traffic ring
by Nirmala Carvalho
On the run is Amit Kumar, a surgeon at the head of one of the largest networks of illegal kidney transplants in the country. The organisation, which operates in Gurgaon, lures in the poor with the false promise of a job, only to remove their kidneys with or against their will. Many private clinics and hospitals are involved. Some suspect police complicity.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The Indian authorities are on the trail of a doctor who is believed to be the head of vast criminal organisation in control of a lucrative kidney transplant racket in Gurgaon, near New Delhi. The manhunt began after a police raid on January 24, at one of the clinics involved in the illegal transplant ring.  The warning was sounded by one of the victims, who after the surgery is now complaining of serious health problems. 

India's Mail Today has given Amit Kumar the nickname "Doctor Horror". He is the mastermind of what the investigators define as one of the country's largest criminal networks for the removal and sale of organs: 4 doctors, 5 nurses, 20 paramedics, 3 private hospitals, 10 specialized pathology clinics, and 5 diagnosis centres, according to Mohinder Lal, the police commissioner at the head of the investigation. "We suspect that over the past nine years, these people have carried out between 400 and 500 transplants", Lal says. The organisation is thought to cover six of the country's states.  At the moment only one of the four doctors, Upender Kumar, has been arrested.

What the investigators have uncovered is shocking. The gang hires men to roam around the poorest markets in Old Delhi and the cities of Uttar Pradesh in search of donors, and once they find them they lure them with the false promise of a good-paying job (150 rupees a day, plus food and lodging) and bring them to the transplant centres. Here they are isolated for days, without any information about their fate - as some of the victims recount - until they are subjected to the transplant procedure.  They are offered between 1000 and 2500 dollars for a kidney.  But not all of them accept, and those who resist are drugged and operated on anyway.  The organs are then sold to rich Indians and non-resident foreigners.  In the latest raid, the police discovered a waiting list with 48 names on it, and in one of the clinics were three Greeks and two Americans, probably waiting for transplants. 

Amit Kumar, a surgeon originally from Maharashra, has a number of different passports and many aliases; he owns property valued at tens of millions of rupees in Gurgaon and Mumbai, and has at least 12 accounts at different banks scattered around the world. The Indian press has accused the police of letting him escape numerous times.  In 1994, in fact, he was arrested for kidney trafficking in Mumbai, but he was able to get away.  After he changed his name, he set up a new network of clinics hidden in private apartments in Gurgaon. One of these was searched in 2000,  but somehow the surgeon received permission to continue to operate.  Precisely for these reasons, in the ongoing controversy in its columns the Times of India has suggested to the government that it investigate "the connections between the organ traffickers and the police".

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