Stevani Wijaya, Jakarta – The Indonesian Police presented on Thursday 12 suspects believed to be members of an illegal organ trade syndicate, accused of preying on at least 122 victims and selling kidneys to a Cambodian ring.
It remains unclear how many victims have actually had their kidneys harvested and sold by the syndicate.
The identities of most of the suspects were not disclosed, but one was identified as a low-ranking police officer with the initial M.
"The policeman, who is ranked as a second sub-inspector, has instructed other suspects to get rid of their phones to evade justice. He also told them that he can deal with [law enforcement officials]," Chief Comr. Hengki Haryadi, director of the Jakarta Police's general crime unit, said at a news conference in Jakarta.
The victims of the syndicate came from various backgrounds, including traders, teachers, and even a master's program graduate from a reputable university in Indonesia.
"Most of them were in desperate need of money and these vulnerable individuals became the target of the syndicate," Hengki said.
The exact pricing of the kidneys in the illicit transactions was not disclosed.
Police indicated that organ harvesting was conducted in both Indonesia and Cambodia.
After the kidneys were harvested, they were stored in a rented house in Villa Mutiara Gading housing complex in Bekasi, east of Jakarta.
It is unclear whether the organs were trafficked to overseas recipients. In some cases, the victims were flown to Cambodia to have their kidneys removed.
"The crime was committed at a hospital that is under the authority of the Cambodian government. It's called Preah Ket Mealea [Hospital]," said Insp. Gen. Krishna Murti, head of the National Police International Relations Division.
He said it was quite challenging to investigate the case in Cambodia and return the victims to Indonesia.
"We had to communicate with higher authorities and even with the special aide of the [Cambodian] prime minister for their assistance. We established contacts with the Cambodian Police and the country's Interpol division, and praise be to God, this case is finally uncovered," Krishna said.
At least six Indonesian citizens were eventually evacuated from the Cambodian hospital albeit too late – five had their left kidneys removed already, while the sixth victim lost the right kidney.
"When they were taken to the Jakarta Police upon arrival from Cambodia, they still had fresh wounds from the surgeries," Hengki said.
The syndicate created Facebook community groups using titles like "Indonesian Kidney Donors" or "International Kidney Donors" to target and attract their victims.
National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmad Ramadhan said the illegal kidney trade case is still at the early stage of the investigation, promising to provide more details as soon as they come.