Alleged kidney harvester arrested in Nepal

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Interpol handout.

Accused kidney racketeer Amit Kumar has been arrested in Nepal at a jungle resort near Chitwan. Police are still seeking suspected co-conspirators, including Kumar's brother Jeevan Rawat. Nepalese police are holding Kumar under currency laws, charging that he was in possession of large amounts of United States dollars and Euros. Nepal has strict laws about foreign currency.

Kumar, who had become the subject of an international manhunt for allegedly harvesting hundreds of kidneys of poor people in India for transplantation to wealthy clients. He is said to have done so through a mixture of bribes and coercion.

Hotel staff at the resort where he was staying, said that he kept a low profile, but suspicions arose when he was cutting out articles about his own case from print newspapers.

India is seeking extradition, but the fact that Nepalese authorities have added their own charges of illegal organ transplants in on top of the foreign currency possession charges, could delay proceedings.

Meanwhile, Poonam Kumar, who is Amit Kumar's wife and lives in Brampton, Canada with their two sons, claims that "My husband is innocent... You tell me what human would want to do these things to anyone. My husband didn't do anything wrong."

"My husband is not a monster as being portrayed around the world, but a doctor who just wants to help people in need" said the 28-year-old woman. "I have great respect for media but it has pre-judged the issue." She added that she has not left her home for seven days and is running out of groceries. The boys have not attended school since last week when world media began knocking on her door. "I don't know what my options are. I don't know where I'm going to go," Poonam Kumar said.

Sri Prakash Jaiswal, the Minister for Home Affairs, is not worried about problems with the extradition. "We have very good relations with our neighbour Nepal. These relations go back to centuries. It will not be a problem in extraditing Dr Amit Kumar," he said.

When asked how Amit Kumar could have crossed the border, Sri Prakash Jaiswal said: "The Indo-Nepal border is porous as we all know. He made use of this. But this does not mean the present condition should continue. We will have to take some measures to control crossing of the border."

One victim, known as Ranjinder, told Times of India that, "We were shifted from one vehicle to another and were confused about where we were. The Nepali driver promised me the job of a cook at a guesthouse. I was taken to a house where I cooked for the first few days." He was told that blood tests were necessary to protect the health of the guests at the house. Dalip, another laborer, said, "They told us it was necessary since the foreign guests were prone to infections. There were two men inside the house with pistols."

Both Ranjinder and Dalip were anasthesised and woke up after their kidneys had been removed.

"Initially they lured the poor with promises of employment. They were then convinced to part with their kidneys and a deal was negotiated," said a police official.