An Indian doctor suspected of being behind an illegal kidney transplant racket was arrested in Nepal today and paraded before journalists in the Himalayan country’s capital, Kathmandu.
Amit Kumar is accused of running a private hospital, just outside Delhi, which allegedly lured or forced hundreds of poor people into giving up their kidneys and made millions by selling their organs.
Arrested in a holiday resort 35 miles from the India-Nepal border, Kumar was caught with a bank draft for 900,000 rupees (£11,500), and cash piles of 140,000 euros (£105,000) and $20,000 (£10,200).
Hotel staff said Kumar kept a low profile, wearing a hat and sunglasses, but he aroused suspicions by cutting out stories about the kidney scam from local newspapers.
He was taken into custody under Nepal’s strict foreign currency laws and faces extradition to India. The multi million dollar scam emerged last month when Indian police raided several hospitals and houses in Gurgaon, a wealthy Delhi suburb.
Today, Kumar protested his innocence. "I have not committed any crime," he told Nepal 1 television. The doctor added that he was not running away and was confident he would be cleared in court.
Nepali police was detained the 43 year old late last night, saying he was attempting to flee to Canada, where he owns a home.
Investigators said that, despite his public protestations of innocence, Kumar confessed to carrying out hundreds of kidney transplants in India, where a commercial trade in such organs is illegal.
Police in Delhi said that a number of foreigners – from the UK, US and Greece – had been attempting to buy organs from Kumar and his team.
Kumar’s brother, Jeevan Rawat, 36, is also the subject of an Interpol alert and is still being hunted.
Although Indian and Nepali police regularly co-operate, there appeared to be some confusion over which country’s charges Kumar would have to face first. In Delhi, the country’s top investigator told television reporters Kumar would soon appear in an Indian court.
"Nepal will hand over Amit Kumar soon," said Vijay Shankar, director of India’s central bureau of investigation.
However, Nepali police insisted that Kumar would need to answer to "serious charges" in Kathmandu first. "We have caught him with a large sum of foreign currency and we will first have to produce him in a court to face these charges," said Hem Gurung, Kathmandu’s police commissioner.
Police in Kathmandu say that the currency violations, if proved in court, carry a four-year jail term.