Police have cracked a multi-billion-shilling syndicate run by a daughter of a former powerful Nairobi politician and her husband which is involved in trafficking Kenyan children to Eastern Europe for suspected organ harvesting and use as guinea pigs.
The intricate network with deep tentacles in State organs includes the Judiciary — with two magistrates and a lawyer working to expedite the adoption of the children – the National Police Service and Immigration department where officers are paid to facilitate the illegal trade.
In the investigation that has taken months to piece together crucial evidence, the police, who are at the tail end of the delicate and sensitive probe, will as soon as early this week pounce on the culprits — the politician’s daughter and her husband, two magistrates, two police officers, an Immigration officer and owner of a children’s home in Nairobi.
The syndicate is paid between Sh10 million and Sh15 million for every child taken to Europe as a guinea pig for medical experiments.
Kenya has often been pointed as one of the key origin and transit centres of the lucrative global criminal syndicate with children from poor homes being the major victims. They are trafficked to European nations where they are used for medical experiments while some land in the hands of unscrupulous and vicious cartels who harvest their organs for sale in the black market.
The cartel has been thriving despite a moratorium on inter-country child adoption in 2014, following reports that adoption agencies and unscrupulous children’s homes were trafficking the minors under the guise of helping them get a better life aboard.
The moratorium was to help the government conduct a comprehensive audit of the claims by a seven-member team appointed to scrutinise the process.
According to a police source, the woman and her husband, a foreigner, abduct children from poor families and take them to the children’s homes and thereafter they are shipped to court where the magistrate expedite “adoption” cases. And once the court process is complete, the Immigration official takes over and provides the necessary travel documents to enable the cartels to fly the children out of the country.
“The magistrate, lawyer and some officials from the children’s office are working in cahoots to ensure that children are taken through the adoption process in record time so that they can be taken to foreign countries,” said the source.
According to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti, the police probe is almost complete and they will soon bring the culprits to book.
“Yes, it is true we have unearthed the syndicate and we are moving fast to eradicate it. Kenya has already put in place a moratorium to stop the adoption of children by foreigners and this is one of the ways we hope to get rid of this illegal trade,” he said.
The non-governmental organisations involved in the fight against human trafficking say the most prominent manifestation of the vice is sexual exploitation because the victims come out seeking for assistance.
They say one of the challenges in fighting the illegal organ trade and prosecuting those behind it is its secretive nature, adding that it is often treated as a “rumour” because many of the victims do not live to tell their ordeal.
Paul Adhoch from Trace Kenya, a Mombasa-based organisation, says he has been helping rehabilitate victims of child trafficking, shipped out of the country and is, therefore, difficult to verify claims because many disappear without a trace.
Mutuku Nguli, from Counter Human Trafficking Trust- East Africa, says some of the key suspects of trafficking are police officers who work with organised criminal cartels to sell children.
“The government should step in and investigate the activities of children’s homes in the country,” he says.
The organisation is currently investigating three cases of children who have been taken to foreign countries and cannot be traced amid fears that they were transported out of the country to have their organs harvested.
They are also looking into a case in which a bogus In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) company took 10 women to Russia to act as surrogate mothers.
“Who knows if these ladies would not end up in brothels in Russia or other parts of the world? Who knows if these women would not be used for organ removal in the guise of surrogacy? How sure are we that they will not end up in slavery? The lack of any binding document such as a contracts spells doom for these women,” says Nguli.
There is, however, scanty data on global trafficking of persons for forced organ harvesting but the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 10 per cent of global transplants are illegal, meaning that they are donors who receive some organs harvested from trafficked victims.
Some of the countries that are notorious for illegal organ harvesting include China, India, Pakistan, Kosovo and Philippines.
The 2018 Global Slavery Index shows that revenue from illegal organ trade worldwide is between $840 million (Sh84.7 billion) and Sh171 billion ($1.7 billion).
Figures from the WHO give a conservative estimate showing that the illegal organ harvesting trade is worth around $1 billion (Sh100 billion).
“Corruption has permeated all facets of our institutions and eaten into the very fabric of our moral societal values. People have become so callous that they are trading in orphaned children when they are at their most vulnerable stage,” said Kinoti.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, every year, at least 125,000 people undergo organ transplantation globally from two sources — deceased and living donors.