JAKARTA/PHNOM PENH (AFP): Three Bali immigration officers have been arrested for their alleged role in an illegal organ trafficking syndicate that ferried dozens of victims to Cambodia to sell their kidneys, Indonesian police said Saturday.
The move comes as authorities crack down on the suspected illegal organ trade ring, arresting 12 members last week -- including a police officer and an immigration officer identified as AH -- accused of smuggling 122 victims abroad.
The three Bali immigration officers are accused of working with AH, who allegedly took bribes to allow victims lured by the trafficking ring to easily pass through immigration checks to Cambodia for kidney surgeries.
"(They) will be brought to Jakarta this afternoon and will be under Jakarta police custody," Jakarta police director for general crimes Hengki Haryadi told AFP.
At least 18 of the kidney donor victims left Bali for Cambodia between March and June, he said.
Authorities believe there are more victims and are looking for them to come forward.
Some of the members of the cell are former donors who became recruiters using Facebook and WhatsApp to lure and trade victims.
The organ trafficking ring has been operating since 2019 earning 24.4 billion rupiah ($1,588,614) in total, Haryadi told reporters last week.
The traffickers received 200 million rupiah for each kidney, pocketing 65 million rupiah and giving the rest to the victims.
The organs were harvested at Preah Ket Mealea Hospital in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, police said.
Organ trading is outlawed in Indonesia and the 10 syndicate members arrested last week face 15 years in prison and 600 million rupiah in fines if found guilty of violating the country's human trafficking law.
The police officer was accused of obstructing the investigation and receiving bribes to help the accused traffickers move locations. He faces five years in prison if found guilty.
Immigration officer AH is accused of abuse of power and faces up to 20 years in prison.
Cash-strapped Indonesians have previously been caught selling their kidneys online for as little as 50 million rupiah ($3,300) each, fuelling a dangerous and illegal trade in human body parts.
Much of the desperate trade is driven by poverty, family debt or outstanding bank loans.
Many of the 122 victims had lost their jobs in the pandemic and were exploited because of precarious financial situations, Haryadi said.