PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — A Canadian man testified Friday that he paid $105,000 (€80,000) to an Israeli citizen in 2008 to organize a kidney transplant in a Kosovo clinic allegedly used by an international organ trafficking network for dozens of illegal operations.
Raul Fain, 66, of Toronto, told an EU-run panel of three judges that he sought foreign organ donors after doctors told him he could wait up to 12 years for such an operation in Canada.
Fain testified from Canada via a video link to the trial of seven Kosovars suspected of involvement in the criminal network. Kosovo law forbids the removal and transplant of organs.
Fain was shown photos of a building that he identified as the Medicus clinic in Pristina where he was driven for his kidney transplant in June 2008.
The witness said he had been met in Istanbul, Turkey, by Israeli national Moshe Harel, who allegedly organized the transplant, and flown to Kosovo together with an elderly German man also seeking a kidney and two Russian women prepared to each donate one.
Fain said the Russian women appeared between 30 and 40 years old and were busy shopping at the main airport in Istanbul. Upon arrival in Pristina, they were taken in separate cars to the clinic and into separate rooms, he said.
"I was asked to shave and injected with what I believe was a form of anesthetic. After about 15 minutes I was wheeled into the operating room," Fain said. "I was kind of half asleep already, but I remember it was dark and it was cold. I was lying down on a very, very narrow bed."
Harel and Turkish Dr. Yusuf Sonmez, who allegedly performed the operations, remain at large and are being sought by European Union prosecutors in charge of the case.
Prosecutor Jonathan Ratel has said the Russian women were just two of some 20 foreign nationals "recruited with false promises of payments" in 2008.
Victims were promised up to $20,000 (€15,100), while kidney recipients were required to pay between $105,000-$132,000 (€80,000 and €100,000), according to Ratel.
Fain testified Friday that Sonmez introduced himself before the operation and visited him every day while he was at the clinic, in the room he shared with a German man who also underwent an operation.
"The discussion was about the state of my health. He said there were encouraging signs that the transplant was successful," Fain said.
Fain spent five days recovering at the clinic before flying back to Canada. He said his recovery was "uneventful and faster than expected."
He said he saw the two Russian women at the clinic but did not talk with them.
"I encountered them in the hallway of the clinic. They appeared to be walking, like me," Fain said.
Asked by the prosecution if he had received one of their kidneys, Fain said: "I believe so."
The case began with indictments in November 2010, and the trial began last year. It is providing a stark look at a crime network that allegedly organized organ transplants and included criminals from countries such as Kosovo, Moldova, Ukraine, Turkey, Russia and Israel.
Ratel said Fain's testimony helped "crystalize issues that have been outstanding for some time" by confirming the presence of Russian donors. He said Russian authorities were withholding evidence and access to crucial witnesses and at least three injured parties.
"These three persons have been located, identified and provided statements to investigative authorities within the Russian Federation," Ratel said stressing that Russian authorities did not respond to requests for legal assistance from the EU rule of law mission in Kosovo.
"A lot is said and a lot written ... All I have had through diplomatic channels has been definite silence," Ratel said.
Russia does not recognize Kosovo's secession from Serbia, and Russian authorities are calling for an independent inquiry into allegations raised in a 2008 book by former U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte that ethnic Albanian guerrillas killed Serb captives during the 1998-99 Kosovo war and sold their organs.
The claims led to Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty write a report which said he is in possession of witness statements proving Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and other citizens who once served as rebel commanders in the Kosovo Liberation Army had run detention centers on Albania's border with Kosovo where civilian captives, including Serbs, were killed and their organs sold on the black market during Kosovo's war for independence from Serbia.
Thaci and Albania's government have denied those allegations.
Ratel said Friday he will ask Marty to testify at the trial. Ratel is part of a 3,000-strong EU rule of law and police mission in Kosovo — known as EULEX — that deals with sensitive cases such as war crimes and organized crime.
The allegations in the Marty report are being investigated by a special EULEX task force.