Indonesian police expose international kidney trafficking network amidst legal and diplomatic hurdles

Indonesian police expose international kidney trafficking network amidst legal and diplomatic hurdles

INDONESIA — The Jakarta Metropolitan Police and the Metro Bekasi Regional Police have exposed an international human kidney trafficking syndicate in a joint operation.

The investigation into the syndicate began when a basecamp was discovered at Vila Mutiara Gading Housing, located on Piano IX Street, in the Setiaasih Village, Tarumajaya Subdistrict, Bekasi Regency, West Java.

The police provided information about their findings in a press conference held at the Jakarta Metropolitan Police Headquarters on Thursday (20 Jul).

Commissioner General Hengki Haryadi, the Director of General Crime Investigation of the Jakarta Metropolitan Police

Commissioner General Hengki Haryadi, the Director of General Crime Investigation of the Jakarta Metropolitan Police, revealed that the perpetrators involved in the human kidney trafficking case in Indonesia were part of an organized transnational crime group.

Among the twelve individuals arrested, one was found to be a member of the Indonesian National Police.

The implicated police officer, identified as Aipda M, played a critical role in shielding the kidney trafficking syndicate from detection by law enforcement agencies.

“He attempted to prevent and hinder, directly or indirectly, the investigative process conducted by the joint team. He instructs others to dispose of their mobile phones, and frequently change locations; in essence, he is evading police pursuit,” explained Hengki. For his role in aiding the syndicate, Aipda M allegedly received a hefty reward totalling Rp 612 million (US$40,700).

In addition to the police officer, the authorities have also identified another individual from the immigration department, known as HA, who allegedly received payments ranging from Rp 3.2 to Rp 3.5 million from a kidney donor being sent abroad. HA is suspected of participating in the forgery of recommendation letters for overseas travel.

Explaining the modus operandi of the syndicate, Commissioner Haryadi said, “During their departure to Kamboja (Cambodia), they forged recommendation letters from several companies to make it appear as if they were going for a ‘Family Gathering’ abroad. Two companies were involved in this forgery, including their stamps.”

As per Commissioner Haryadi, the charges against HA will be based on Article 2 and Article 4 of Law No. 21 of 2007, which concern the misuse of authority leading to human trafficking and the penalties for such offenses.

Commissioner Haryadi further shed light on the syndicate’s activities, indicating that out of the twelve arrested, ten were part of the criminal network, with nine of them being former donors.

The suspects had well-defined roles within the organization, with individuals like Hanif or H serving as intermediaries between Indonesia and Kamboja, while Septian or S acted as the coordinator within Indonesia.

Moreover, Lukman or L was responsible for accommodating and assisting the donors during their stay in Kamboja. Seven others were involved in recruitment, handling passports, accommodations, and other logistics.

Digital forensics revealed that the syndicate had planned to perform kidney transplants on 14 victims in Kamboja.

“We, the complete team from the Criminal Investigation Bureau of the Jakarta Metropolitan Police and the International Relations Division of the Indonesian National Police, departed for Kamboja on June 30th. But bureaucratic hurdles initially hampered our efforts,” Hengki said.

Commissioner Haryadi stated that the syndicate became aware of the task force’s presence during their two-week stay in Kamboja.

“They flew from Vietnam to Malaysia and then to Bali. After the syndicate arrived in Indonesia, the joint team returned to Jakarta, and we immediately apprehended them in Surabaya. The coordinator in Kamboja has also been captured,” he said.

The investigation exposed the syndicate’s payment system, with the Indonesian members receiving Rp 200 million per successful donor recruitment.

Out of this amount, donors received Rp 135 million, and the remaining sum went to the perpetrators after deducting operational expenses like passport fees and transportation costs.

Hengki explained that the donors will be observed for approximately a week while waiting to be matched with potential kidney recipients.

Subsequently, a kidney transplant will take place. After that, there will be a seven-day healing period, and then they will return to Indonesia.

The victims came from various professions, ranging from those with advanced degrees to labourers, and they were compelled to sell their kidneys due to economic hardships brought on by the pandemic, including job losses.

The syndicate’s recruitment efforts involved Facebook, where victims were promised up to Rp 135 million for their kidneys post-transplantation in Kamboja.

“There are two accounts and two community groups, namely ‘Kidney Donors Indonesia’ (Donor Ginjal Indonesia) and ‘Kidney Donors Abroad’ (Donor Ginjal Luar Negeri),” clarified Commissioner Hengki Haryadi.

The suspects also used word-of-mouth to find victims. A total of 122 Indonesian citizens have undergone kidney transplants at Preah Ket Mealea Hospital in Kamboja, with recipients hailing from different countries such as India, China, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Commissioner General Wahyu Widada, the Head of the Criminal Investigation Bureau (Kabareskrim) of the Indonesian National Police (Polri)

Commissioner General Wahyu Widada, the Head of the Criminal Investigation Bureau (Kabareskrim), highlighted the severity of the human trafficking issue, prompting the formation of the Human Trafficking Task Force (Satgas TPPO) in June 2023. Since its inception, the task force has received 699 reports, resulting in 829 arrests and the rescue of 2,149 victims.

To support the victims, the Jakarta Metropolitan Police’s Medical and Health Division (Bidang Kedokteran dan Kesehatan) and Said Sukanto Police Hospital (RS Polri) have formed a team to provide assistance, rehabilitation, and healthcare services. Six victims have already undergone complete medical examinations, including laboratory tests, chest X-rays, and abdominal CT scans.

Authorities have faced challenges in investigating the case, partly due to the difference in interpretations of human trafficking laws between Indonesia and Kamboja, as well as the execution of illegal activities within a government-controlled hospital in Kamboja.

Despite the obstacles, the joint efforts of the Indonesian and Kambojan authorities have successfully uncovered the international human kidney trafficking syndicate that has been operating since 2019, accumulating a total revenue of approximately Rp 24.4 billion.

Inspector General Krishna Murti, the Head of International Relations Division (Kadivhubinter) of the Indonesian National Police (Polri)

According to Inspector General Krishna Murti, the Head of International Relations Division (Kadivhubinter) of the Indonesian National Police (Polri), among the hurdles faced is the lack of a consensus on whether the case constitutes human trafficking within the domestic framework, particularly among government ministries and institutions, including the Indonesian Embassy in Kamboja.

“Some parties perceive this as not constituting human trafficking, but we are certain that this indeed involves criminal acts,” said Krishna.

Additionally, the trafficking of kidneys takes place in hospitals that fall under the jurisdiction of the Kambojan government, specifically at Preah Ket Mealea Hospital. “The kidney transactions and executions occur within government hospitals,” Krishna confirmed.

These challenges have prompted the International Relations Division (Div Hubinter) to communicate with higher authorities, such as the Prime Minister’s special staff, seeking assistance in repatriating the victims of human trafficking.

Div Hubinter has maintained close communication with both the Kambojan police and Interpol Kamboja to successfully uncover the case.

In the meantime, Commissioner Hengki Haryadi, confirmed that there is also a lack of agreement on human trafficking charges (TPPO) in Kamboja, despite being considered a double criminality. He highlighted that actions deemed criminal in Indonesia may not necessarily be regarded the same way in Kamboja.

“In Kamboja, these actions (TPPO) are considered against the law, as there have been previous prosecutions at this hospital, resulting in the arrest of high-ranking officials in Kamboja in 2014,” added Hengki.

The investigation into the international kidney trafficking syndicate remains ongoing as authorities strive to overcome the legal and diplomatic challenges that have arisen during this complex case.

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