Egypt's authorities arrested on Tuesday 45 suspects -- including Egyptians and foreigners – who have been accused of running an illegal organ trafficking ring, the health ministry and the Administrative Control Authority announced.
According to an official statement issued by the Ministry of Health, the Administrative Control Authority and the ministry led the arrest of 45 suspects including university professors, doctors, nurses, medical centre owners and brokers involved in illegal organ trafficking.
The statement added that the ring was taking advantage of the current economic circumstances of poor Egyptians, who would sell their organs for cheap prices, allowing members of the ring to make fortunes.
The health ministry revealed that the suspects include professors working in the faculties of medicine in both Cairo and Ain Shams universities and doctors working in Ahmed Maher teaching hospital, the National Institute of Urology and Nephrology as well some privately-owned labs.
Ten medical centers and hospitals -- whose names were not released -- were raided and investigated according to a separate statement issued by the Administrative Control Authority on Tuesday.
The health ministry stated that most of the hospitals and centres were in the districts of Al-Haram and Giza and that some of them were not licensed.
The centres and hospitals involved in the case were closed on the orders of Health Minister Ahmed Emad.
A source in the Administrative Control Authority told Ahram Arabic news website that the ring had been under the surveillance of the authority for months, which had been granted permission by the prosecutor-general.
The prosecutor-general has ordered an investigation into the case.
Organ trafficking is explicitly forbidden in Egypt according to article 60 of the country’s 2014 constitution.
Egyptian law criminalises the trade of organs and penalises traffickers by up to seven years in jail.
According to a study published in 2007 by the World Health Organization, Egypt is among the top exporters of kidneys, sitting alongside of China and Sri Lanka in the last ten years.
The study stated that despite there being no comparable data for Egypt, a considerable number of patients from neighbouring countries are believed to have undergone illegal organ transplants in Egypt.