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Large Scale Illegal Organ Trafficking Reported on Italian-Slovenian Border - 2002-01-19

Italian magistrates are investigating what they believe to be large-scale trafficking in human organs taken from Chinese immigrants.

Italian investigators in the northern Italian city of Trieste say they are convinced that traffickers on the Italian-Slovenian border have been actively selling human organs taken from illegal immigrants. For the past five years, they have been conducting an extensive inquiry into the international trafficking of illegal immigrants and organs.

The chief prosecutor of Trieste, Nicola Maria Pace, heads the investigation.

Prosecutor Pace said checks on 16 Chinese criminal groups revealed trafficking in human organs.

He says intercepted phone calls referred to immigrants selected for organ removal as "special cargoes." He said they are Chinese nationals desperate for a better life in the West, and aware that a kidney is the price they will have to pay. But some, Mr. Pace said, are unaware they have been selected as organ donors, and are tricked into submitting to what they think is a small operation.

Investigators believe a well-established organization helps illegal immigrants get to Slovenia, where the organs are removed.

More ominously, investigators say, some "forced donors" disappear completely, leading them to believe it is not just kidneys, but such vital organs as livers that are being removed. The organs are then stored in special refrigerated containers before being sent on to the buyers.

The Trieste prosecutor says the selling of human organs is perhaps the most alarming aspect of illegal international trafficking in human beings.

It is an immensely lucrative trade. Mr. Pace says phone interceptions have revealed that some illegal immigrants have been passed from trafficker to trafficker for between $100,000 and $150,000.