Ukrainian Organs in Israel, Transited Through Kazakhstan

“In prior collusion with members of a criminal group…”

A country in which a war is going on and living standards are falling always looks like a horn of abundance for “black transplantologists” in the human organ market. Ukraine has been caught up in a scandal related to illegal trafficking of “human flesh” more than once, especially in 2014, which was “rich” in death. In the information space, the scandal was usually quickly extinguished, but another recently erupted.

On November 18th in Kazakhstan the chief doctor of the city clinical hospital No. 1 of Shymkent, Ablai Dombay, who is suspected of carrying out illegal organ transplantation, was detained. The police pointed out: “the investigation found that the citizen Dombay A. A. in preliminary collusion with members of a criminal group, about whose activities he was reliably aware, despite the legislative ban on the sale of human organs, carried out illegal operations to seize and transplant kidneys for a large monetary reward”.

Criminal proceedings have been initiated against a doctor under part 2 of article 264 (participation in a transnational criminal group) and part 3 of article 116 (unlawful seizure of human organs) of the Criminal Code of Kazakhstan. The investigation found that citizens of Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, who traded their kidneys because of extreme need, were involved in organ transplantation operations as donors. The removed organs were transplanted to wealthy foreign clients, primarily from Israel. Kazakhstan’s health minister, Elzhan Bīrtanov, says donors and recipients negotiated a “sale” of organs and an operation, masking the deal with voluntary consent.

Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan Rashid Zhakupov said that Dombay has been “temporarily detained”, although he is not going to be released on bail. Zhakupov made it clear that the case of Ablai Dombay was indirectly related to the criminal case of transplant doctor Gani Kuttymuratov, who was arrested in the summer together with one B. T. Taysalova, a citizen of Kyrgyzstan who worked as a donor translator. The arrest of a well-known doctor and head of the department of the National Center of Oncology and Transplantology caused a storm of misunderstanding in the Republic, but law enforcement officials stated that they had 20 proven episodes of Kuttymuratov’s participation in illegal organ transplantation.

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Transplantation is not prohibited in Kazakhstan, but according to the legislation, citizens are prohibited to give their kidneys, liver, and other organs to foreigners. Kuttymuratov’s case turned out to be high-profile, the doctor is charged under part 2 of article 264 (participation in a transnational organised group or transnational criminal organisation) and part 3 of article 116 (coercion to seize or the illegal seizure of human organs and tissues).

According to Major General Armanbek Baymurzin, former Head of the Criminal Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan, criminal commerce has spread widely: since the beginning of 2019 more than 60 criminal cases have been initiated concerning the facts of trafficking in human organs and tissues.

The Ukrainian trail in these cases is not covered in the media of Ukraine too actively – after all, the citizens of Ukraine sell their organs not because they have a good life. However, the Kazakh-Ukrainian transplantological scandal could not be extinguished. On June 27th 2019 Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Vyacheslav Abroskin said on Facebook that he met with colleagues from Kazakhstan, who, in agreement with the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, investigate the human organ trafficking. According to the Deputy Minister, there is known information about 20 citizens of Ukraine who sold their kidneys, having received for each one from $10,000-$15,000. For the buyer a kidney costs $150.

The Deputy Minister of Ukraine writes: “One of the men said that he sold a kidney to pay for his wife’s cancer operation, and another – to simply live. And these unhappy citizens are ordinary organ suppliers, and in general international organised crime that profit from human grief is behind all this. It is very sad that our citizens become suppliers of organs.”

Anyway, the investigation is ongoing. In early October, when the detentions in Kazakhstan unfolded, the leading Ukrainian transplantologist Oleg Kotenko, who is the head of the liver transplantation department of the Shalimov Institute, was arrested in Kiev. About a million US dollars was seized from the doctor and he was placed under house arrest. At the end of October another hornet’s nest was uncovered in Kiev – a private clinic where “black transplantologists” were also supposed to operate was discovered.

How the investigations in Ukraine will be completed is unknown, and the investigation in Kazakhstan concerning the case of Ablai Dombay – who began his practice in the liver transplantation center of N. Sklifosovsky Research Institute in Moscow, trained in Seoul, and quickly aimed for the position of the Chief Doctor of Shymkent – raises questions. In addition, Dombay’s predecessor at the post of Chief Doctor, the known surgeon Madi Bigaliev, committed suicide.

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Only the Ministry of health of Kazakhstan, where they are trying to protect the honour of the uniform, is dissatisfied with the arrest of Ablai Dombay. Deputy Minister of Health Lyazat Aktaeva said: “We have 52 transplantologists, and everyone has their own specialisation… The Ministry of Health believes that a doctor cannot be imprisoned along with other criminals…” The police, however, are not prepared to accept that a person who acted “in prior collusion with members of a criminal group” and carried out “illegal kidney seizures and transplant operations” cannot be sent to prison because he is a valuable specialist.

And while in Kazakhstan the scandal with illegal kidney transplantation breaks out, and while in Ukraine they try to silence it, a third party – Israel, is silent. And is this unexpected? The rich from there pay both those who give their organs and those who cut them out, and the rest of them do not care.

Andrey Uvarov

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