Ex-Kosovo officials probed for organ trafficking

A former Kosovo health minister and another Pristina official are among eight suspects in a new EU probe into a human organ trafficking case, a local daily reported Tuesday.

Last Wednesday, a day after a European Union-led court in Kosovo convicted five doctors of harvesting and selling kidneys at a Pristina clinic, the EU's Pristina mission announced the new probe without revealing the identity of the suspects.

It said they were under investigation for "organised crime, trafficking in persons, grievous bodily harm, abusing official position of authority, fraud and trading in influence".

Alush Gashi, a former health minister, and Shaip Muja, who advised the Kosovo prime minister on health issues, are among the suspects, the Koha Ditore daily reported Tuesday, quoting anonymous sources from the EU prosecutor's office.

The suspects "are expected to be charged very soon," the paper said.

They are suspected of using their influence to cover up the case in which around 30 illegal kidney removals and transplants were carried out at the Medicus clinic in Pristina in 2008, it said.

The donors were recruited from poor eastern European and Central Asian countries and promised about 15,000 euros ($20,000) for their organs. The recipients, mainly Israelis, would pay up to 100,000 euros each.

Gashi and Muja joined Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's government following 2007 parliamentary elections.

The five doctors convicted in late April included the owner of the Medicus clinic and prominent Pristina urologist Lutfi Dervishi and his son Arban. Of the five, Dervishi received the harshest sentence of eight years in jail.

The EU mission in Pristina (EULEX) was set up to help the local judiciary handle sensitive cases after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.