Alleged Indonesian organ trafficker says he sold his kidney to a Singapore buyer
JAKARTA – Faced with mounting debts, 41-year-old Hanim had sold his kidney to an organ-trafficking ring in 2019. He then joined the syndicate as a coordinator and helped cash-strapped Indonesians do the same.
Prospective peddlers typically contacted the syndicate on private Facebook kidney donor groups and provided their personal details such as their age, gender and blood type.
They would then gather at a rented house in Bekasi, outside Jakarta, and fly to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh from Indonesia’s capital or Bali for a medical check-up at a military hospital there.
Once they passed the health test, they would be matched with buyers, who hailed from various countries, including Singapore, Malaysia and China, according to Hanim and the Indonesian police.
Recipients paid 200 million rupiah (S$17,720) for a kidney.
“My kidney was sold to a patient from Singapore,” Hanim told local television media from the Jakarta police headquarters in a video posted on YouTube on Sunday.
“The sellers would meet the buyers, sign a donor agreement and set a date for the operation. Nobody was allowed to visit them. Sellers would be paid after the transplant was completed and stay at the hospital for around 10 days to recover,” he added.
Earlier in July, and 122 donors later, the Indonesian police busted the syndicate. Twelve people were detained and named suspects, including nine who, like Hanim, had exchanged their kidneys for cash.
The ring involved a policeman and an immigration officer too.
The immigration officer, who the police identified by his initials AH, was paid three million to 3.5 million rupiah for every donor he helped to clear immigration at Bali airport.
But even this officer had no clue they were involved in organ trafficking as they had lied to him that they were going to work for online gambling operators in Cambodia.
All the suspects face up to 15 years in jail and a fine up to 600 million rupiah for violating Indonesia’s human-trafficking law.
According to Indonesian police, sellers received 165 million rupiah and the traffickers pocketed 35 million rupiah to cover such expenses as air tickets and passport-processing fees.
Police Chief Commissioner Hengki Haryadi, Jakarta’s police director of general crimes investigation unit, told reporters that the sellers included a teacher, a security guard and even a master’s student.
Most of them desperately needed money, making them vulnerable targets of the syndicate,he added.
Mr Hengki also said initial investigations showed that illegal organ trading “may have been going on for a long time and (the ring that was busted is) not the only syndicate”.
“We will continue to take action so as to create a deterrent effect for the perpetrators and put an end to this,” he said.
Selling organs is illegal in Indonesia, but people are allowed to donate them to friends and relatives. As such, Indonesians go online in the hope of finding buyers outside the country.
In one private Facebook group, called Donor Ginjal Indonesia (or Indonesian Kidney Donors), both buyers and sellers openly interacted with one another, with some posting their mobile numbers, as well as photos of their identity cards and health documents.
“I desperately need money now as I am being chased by loan sharks. I’m 38 years old. Anyone in need of a kidney, please contact me, only serious buyers.” posted a seller.
“A healthy and fit donor with A blood type needed, maximum 35 years old. Food, transport and all administrative fees will be covered,” a buyer posted, drawing 22 comments from interested sellers.
Hanim said he contacted the administrator of a Facebook group via Messenger expressing his intention to sell his kidney back in 2018.
“I was facing financial hardship. My parents lost a house, my business was going nowhere. So, I searched for kidney donor groups online,” he said.
To his surprise, the Facebook administrator told him to contact a broker in Bogor regency, in West Java, whom he met later. The broker took him to a hospital in Jakarta for a transplant but the paperwork was tedious, and his wife found out and protested against his plan.
Without his wife’s consent, he could not fulfil one of the conditions for a transplant in Jakarta and had to call it off. However, he continued to stay at the broker’s house, lying to his wife that he was working on a project.
A year later, in July 2019, Hanim flew to Phnom Penh with two other Indonesians and were taken by a tuk-tuk driver to a hospital, he said, adding that the hospital was chosen for its “straightforward procedures”.
Hanim said his job in the syndicate was to manage Indonesian sellers already in Cambodia. He denied recruiting them.
He said: “I’m filled with regret. I had wanted to quit doing this since 2019. If there’s a better solution (to your problems), don’t do it (work with illegal organ traffickers).”