U.S. Couple in Kidney Racket Claims Ignorance

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An American couple here cannot return home until they give Indian authorities information they have regarding an illegal kidney racket in which 600 people were forced into having their organs removed.

"They can be arrested for conspiracy but we don't want to because he is very ill," said Gurgaon Joint Police Commissioner Manjit Ahlawat about the husband and wife who traveled here for medical care from their New York home. "We simply want to know who introduced them to the doctor and how much did they pay?"

Until Joy and Susan Mathew of Hawthorne, N.Y., reveal that information, the authorities say they will continue to hold their passports.

The 53-year-old husband, Joy, needs a kidney transplant and has been undergoing dialysis treatment in New York for the past several months. Joy Mathew is on medical leave until March from his job as an accountant for the Probation Department of Westchester County just outside New York City, a neighbor told ABCNews.com.

His 52-year-old wife, Susan, is a registered nurse. They have two adult children, a son who is studying accounting and a daughter who is studying medicine.

Susan Mathew told ABCNews.com that three months ago they heard about "a good doctor in Delhi and we can get treatment" for her husband who suffers from a genetic kidney disorder and needs a second kidney transplant. The couple did not hesitate, she said.

"The organ list is too long," Mrs. Mathew said about the UNOS organ donor program in the United States. Because her husband has a rare blood type, the wait for a matching kidney could be as long as eight years, she said.

So the Indian-American couple, who moved to the United States in the early 1990s, made the long journey back to their homeland to try to save the husband from his debilitating illness, which requires dialysis several times a week.

They arrived in New Delhi on Jan. 21, beginning treatment with the doctor they barely knew.

"We were not knowing any problems," the wife said. "We got to the doctors, but we only met the doctor for two minutes."

What the American couple claims they did not know is that the doctor from which they sought treatment, Dr. Amit Kumar, was allegedly running an illegal kidney racket in which police say 600 kidneys were stolen or purchased from victims, then transplanted into the bodies of wealthy Indians or foreigners.

When asked if they are still waiting for a transplant, the wife of the New York couple said no.

"We're not waiting for a transplant," she said. "We don't need anything now. We want to go home."

Their doctor, Kumar, is not qualified to perform kidney transplants and is not licensed to do any surgeries, said Ahlamat.

Mumbai police have been chasing Kumar – also known as Dr. Santosh Raut – since 1993, when he allegedly ran an illegal kidney racket there, too. The doctor had previously been arrested in Delhi in 2000 for involvement in the illegal trade of organs.

On this most recent racket, police say Kumar worked with his brother, who is also wanted by authorities. A third doctor involved in the scam is under arrest and cooperating with authorities.

If the Mathews did not know about their doctor's past, they learned about his present very quickly: three days into their trip, while in a dialysis session, police raided the doctor's operation center.

"They asked us 'Why are you here?' We said, 'We are here for treatment,'" said Mrs. Mathew.

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