Kidneys-for-sale trial lawyers hold talks with prosecutors

2011-01-28 15:33

Lawyers representing the remaining six accused in the Netcare kidneys-for-sale trial in the Durban Commercial Crime Court spent this afternoon negotiating with prosecutors in the case over a potential plea bargain deal following a brief court appearance late this morning.

The legal teams asked Magistrate Kim de Freitas for an additional adjournment until February 23 for talks to continue, following a series of earlier remands that resulted in Netcare and several co-accused pleading guilty and paying fines for conducting illegal kidney transplants on rich Israeli citizens using organs illegally harvested from poor Brazilians, Bulgarians and Israelis.

In November, their co-accused, nephrologist Jeff Kallmeyer, made a plea agreement with the prosecution and paid a fine of R150 000. Kallmeyer was the fourth accused to plead guilty and struck a deal with the prosecution.

Netcare itself paid a R4 million fine and a ­R3.8 million asset forfeiture, while the interpreter who worked for the illegal network, Samuel Ziegler, struck a deal in October.

The group, which operated out of Netcare’s prestigious St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban, conducted the illegal transplants for an Israeli organ trafficking network run by organ broker Illan Perry over a five-year period, despite Netcare being aware that what they were doing was against South African law.

They conducted the illegal operations in Durban, and at Netcare hospitals in Cape Town and Johannesburg, until one of the “donors’’ changed his mind and tried to flee South Africa.

When he was arrested, he spilled the beans and police then mounted a major surveillance operation before securing a court order to raid the hospital and seize records proving that the medical teams and the hospital’s administrators were running illegal operations.

Netcare has not been charged over the Cape Town and Johannesburg transplants.

At this stage, only the doctors involved in the 109 illegal transplants – Arif Haffejee, Mahadev Naidoo, John Robbs and Neil Christopher – and Netcare transplant coordinators Melanie Azor and Lindy Dickson are still on trial.

De Freitas granted the adjournment after the request by specialist prosecutor Robin Palmer, who has been brought in by the state to prosecute the case.

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