A millionaire Lebanese politician has gone on trial in Spain for organ trafficking after he allegedly tried to buy a liver from poor illegal immigrants.
Hatem Akouche and four other defendants appeared in court in Valencia on 24th October for trying to buy part of a liver for a transplant.
The 69-year-old – who has an incurable liver disease – is believed to have solicited vulnerable people for part of their liver in exchange for cash and work.
Akouche – former mayor of El Kharayeb – allegedly did this via two of his nephews, who managed a company in Novelda, Alicante Province, Valencia Region.
But the men were caught when a volunteer for an NGO working with undocumented immigrants learnt of an Algerian woman who had been contacted by them.
The 28-year-old had gone for tests in preparation for the organ donation but was eventually ruled out as a candidate because she was pregnant at the time.
Police in Valencia began investigating and found that at least seven others had gone to clinics to undergo the same tests as the Algerian woman.
They discovered that each potential candidate had been accompanied by the same relative of Akouche during their visits.
Each person was “especially vulnerable both because of their origin and because of their economic hardship”, said the prosecution.
The men’s plan failed when staff at a Barcelona hospital became suspicious of a homeless Romanian man who was due to donate part of his liver there.
Akouche eventually received part of his son’s liver on 26th August 2013.
He was arrested in the VIP lounge of Valencia Airport on 30th January 2014.
Akouche claimed he was unaware at the time that buying vital organs inter vivos was prohibited under Spanish law.
He went on trial in Valencia in 2019, which ended with an agreement between the prosecution and the accused.
The Lebanese millionaire and his relatives did not contest the court’s version of events and he accepted a year in prison, while his relatives accepted two years.
But the group is now back on trial after the Supreme Court annulled the outcome of that trial and ordered a retrial.
The others now in court are the former mayor’s son, the two nephews, and another Lebanese national.
They are accused of promoting, favouring or facilitating the illegal transplantation of human organs of others.
The prosecution is requesting three years in prison for Akouche and seven for the other four defendants.