An Israeli man who allegedly headed up an international organ trafficking operation has been arrested by police in Cyprus.
Moshe Harel stands accused of leading the network, which is said to have operated out of the Balkan state of Kosovo around a decade ago.
Along with his associates, police claim Harel lured potential donors from countries across Eastern Europe, Russia, Turkey and Central Asia, before removing their organs and leaving them with no medical aftercare once operations had been carried out.
Donors received as little as €12,000 in exchange for one of their kidneys, which would then be sold to wealthy recipients for nearly 10 times that price. The majority of recipients who bought organs from the trafficking gang were Israelis, according to prosecutors.
It has been claimed some donors never received payment once their organs had been removed.
Commenting on Harel’s detention, police spokesman Baki Kelani said: “Based on an international arrest warrant, the suspect MH was arrested a few days ago in Cyprus. He has been a wanted person since 2010.”
Interpol, Kosovo and Russia have all previously issued arrest warrants for Harel, who was detained in connection with the organ harvesting network in his home country back in 2012.
He was not extradited to Kosovo at the time, owing to the fact that the Balkan state has no diplomatic relations with Israel.
Authorities were first alerted to the organ smuggling network when a Turkish man in visible pain was stopped at Pristina International Airport in 2008 after having his kidney removed.
Harel is said to have led a gang of nine people who ran the trafficking network out of a clinic in a residential area of Pristina.
Lutfi Dervishi, the director of the clinic, was jailed alongside his son Arban for their parts in the conspiracy in their absence in 2013. They were handed sentences of eight and seven years respectively for their part in the network’s activities.
Both men went into hiding and have yet to serve their jail terms.
Sentencing the men at the time alongside three others, Judge Dean Pineles said their victims lived in extreme poverty, could not speak the local language, and had little idea what was happening to them and nobody to look out for their interests.
Prosecutors claimed at least 30 illicit kidney removals were conducted at the clinic in 2008, but the true number could be much higher.
All suspects in the case deny any wrongdoing.
It is thought Kosovo will begin extradition proceedings against Harel in the coming weeks.
The global trade in human body parts has been bolstered in recent years by the ongoing migrant crisis, which is driving desperate would-be refugees to sell their organs to pay for their travel to Europe.