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Kosovo leader tied to human kidney trafficking, report says

Inquiry maintains prime minister led criminal network

PARTY DISMISSES CLAIMS Kosovo officials denounced as slanderous the allegations against Hashim Thaci, whose party won elections this month. PARTY DISMISSES CLAIMS
Kosovo officials denounced as slanderous the allegations against Hashim Thaci, whose party won elections this month.
By Doreen Carvajal
International Herald Tribune / December 16, 2010

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PARIS — A two-year international inquiry has accused the prime minister of Kosovo of leading a clan of criminal entrepreneurs who presided over an organ-trafficking network that extracted kidneys from Serbian prisoners executed during the Kosovo conflict in 1999.

The report, prepared for the Council of Europe, names the prime minister, Hashim Thaci, the former political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, or KLA. It accuses him of leading the Drenica Group, an organized crime network that flourished in Kosovo and Albania after the war and exerted control over the heroin and narcotics trade and six secret detention centers for a black market in human kidneys.

After the report became public, Kosovo officials called it slanderous and an effort to harm Thaci, 42, whose party this month won the first election there since it declared independence from Serbia.

After fighting ended in Kosovo in June 1999, a network was established that tied into “a broader, more complex organized criminal conspiracy’’ that operated in three other countries and endured for more than a decade, according to the report. The document was prepared by Dick Marty, a Swiss politician who led the investigation and has previously looked into allegations that the CIA abducted and imprisoned terrorism suspects in Europe.

The Kosovar network faced new scrutiny this week with the start of a trial in Pristina, the capital, to prosecute seven men, including a former senior Health Ministry official. They are accused of recruiting 20 people from impoverished nations with promises of payments for their kidneys, which were sold to recipients for $110,000 to $137,000.

The Council of Europe, separate from the European Union, includes 47 member states and is responsible for the European Court of Human Rights.

The report was initially commissioned in response to allegations about organ trafficking in a 2008 memoir by Carla del Ponte, now the Swiss ambassador to Argentina and formerly prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, a UN body that pursued war crimes suspects.

Her book, “The Hunt,’’ asserted that Kosovo Albanians had smuggled human organs of kidnapped Serbs after the war ended in 1999.

But she did not submit evidence of organ trafficking to the tribunal’s judges while she was the prosecutor.

The trafficking, according to the report, evolved over time and consisted of detention centers spread through Albania that were controlled by the KLA.

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