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Police in Akola have busted an international kidney racket, by arresting a moneylender who had forced a daily wage labourer to travel to Sri Lanka to sell off a kidney, in order to repay a loan of Rs 20,000.

According to a report in an English language daily, incredibly, the kidney racket may be linked to farmer suicides in Vidarbha. A spate of farmer suicides in the region has alarmed the country, but part of the reason is the moneylenders’ exploitation poor farmers and labourers.

The Akola police discovered the kidney racket when they found the daily wage labourer Santosh Gawli’s travel to Sri Lanka on a tourist visa suspicious. The police picked the labourer up on Monday and found out the truth.

The police have also arrested an agent, Devendra Shirsat, who struck the deal for the moneylender, Anand Jadhav in Colombo. The role of a Nagpur hospital, where the preliminary tests were conducted on the daily wage worker before he flew to Colombo, is also being probed, says the report. The case shows all signs of being an international racket, say police.

Two more victims of the moneylender have been tracked down as well.

A team of Akola police arrived in Mumbai on Wednesday to gather details from a hotel in Mumbai, where Gawli was staying before being flown by Jadhav and Shirshat to Colombo, says the report. Gawli alleged that Jadhav had threatened to kill him after he failed to pay the third instalment of Rs 20,000, and hence he had no choice but to travel to Lanka.

Gawli caved in when the threats got deadly. The moneylender evetually made an offer – sell your kidney, get a waiver on your loan, and earn Rs 4 lakh extra.

Shirshat then arranged for Gawli’s passport and visa. The Akola police also suspect that he served as a conduit between Jadhav and the Colombo hospital where Gawli was forced to sell his kidney.

Gawli was then paid half of the Rs 4 lakh he was promised. He has no idea about post-operative care and has received none in Akola so far, says the report.

Superintendent of Akola Police, CK Meena, said to the daily, “So far we have just registered a case of cheating against two as per the complaint lodged with us. Prima facie it appears to be the work of an organised syndicate, but we can’t reveal anything since investigations are still in the premature stage.”

Meena said, “We will ascertain the role of the Nagpur based hospital and if any evidence of their involvement emerges we will take further action.” (DNA)