Organ brokers face human trafficking charges

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Police in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho on Tuesday proposed charges against four Vietnamese members of a Chinese-led human kidney trading ring that illegally sent Vietnamese people to China to sell their kidneys between 2008 and 2011.

They have asked the municipal People's Procuracy to lay charges of "illegally sending people abroad" against a woman and three men La Thi Thinh, Quang Dai Vang, Vo Dinh Van and Le Son Truyen who served as brokers in the ring.

Early this year, the police were told by a local hospital that a number of people who came to the hospital for medical checks were requesting some "suspicious" tests.

The police began investigating and tracked down the ring.

Van, 25, and Truyen, 27, confessed to the police they had visited China in the past to sell their own kidneys through the ring led by three Chinese men named Vuong, Nghia and A Trang. (No further information about the Chinese men has been released.)

Vuong and A Trang told Van and Truyen to get back to Vietnam and seek strong young men willing to sell their own kidneys in China. They promised to pay Van and Truyen VND10 million (US$482) for each successful case.

Vuong also introduced Van and Truyen to Thinh, a 40-year-old woman who organized illegal entry to China via Mong Cai Town in Quang Ninh Province that shares a land border with China.

Under the agreement between the two sides, Van and Truyen would find Vietnamese people willing to sell their kidneys, and take them for medical check-ups before heading to Hanoi.

From Hanoi, the sellers would be brought to Mong Cai, where Thinh would arrange for them to enter China. In China, Vuong and A Trang would pick them up and take them to Chinese hospitals for kidney removal.

Thinh was paid VND900,000 ($43) for each successful trip.

Vang, 24, meanwhile, joined the ring in early 2009. He himself was persuaded by a man named Vu another broker of the ring to sell his kidney in China.

Vu later introduced Vang to Van and Truyen. The pair asked Vang to find people who want to sell their kidneys, promising to pay Vang VND3 million ($144) for each successful case.

Vang officially became a broker and introduced eight kidney sellers to Van and Truyen between 2009 and February 2011.

Early this year, he was arrested by Can Tho police as he sought kidney sellers in a rural area. The three other ring members were arrested later.

According to the police, between 2008 and February 2011, the trio (Van, Truyen and Vang) successfully sent 19 men aged between 18 and 35, hailing mostly from Ho Chi Minh City and other southern provinces, to China.

The targets of the kidney trading ring are mostly healthy but poor Vietnamese men, the police said.

The ring also employed several other Vietnamese brokers whom the police are still searching for.

Health risks

Many kidney sellers told the police they were paid VND50 million ($2,400) for each kidney, but they only got VND30-35 million each after deducting fees for airfare, accommodation and travel during their stays in China.

They said the Chinese gang members forced them to return home a couple of days after kidney removal surgeries in Chinese hospitals, in order to reduce their expenses.

After returning home, most of the sellers had to be treated at local clinics after their incisions got infected.

According to the police, three of the Vietnamese victims Vo Van Canh, To Van Hieu and Tran Van Do have had their health deteriorate badly.

Dr Le Quang Dung of the Can Tho General Hospital said making people who'd had their kidneys removed return home after just two days or so was an "inhumane act" that put lives at risk.

"A patient who has just undergone kidney transplant or removal must rest for at least three months to recover his strength," he said.

Dung said a man who lost one kidney would lose 50 percent of his labor capacity and 41 percent of his health, and would be more prone to suffer kidney failure later.

Loopholes in legislation

Colonel Le Viet Hung, deputy chief of the Can Tho Police Department, said trading in human organs is not mentioned in the latest version of the Vietnamese Criminal Code as an illegal activity.

That's why the police have only proposed charges of "illegally sending people abroad" against the brokers, he said.

"Lawmakers should add trading in human organs to the Penal Code to prevent similar acts in the future."

China has banned human organ trading under any form, but the black market bustles with abundant demand and supply.

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