By Chris King • 31 March 2023 • 2:48
Image showing hands holding an 'organ donor' sign.
The Provincial Court of Valencia sentenced Hatem Akouche, a millionaire of Lebanese origin, to 8 months in prison this Wednesday, March 29. His son also received 18 months, with both men accused of trying to buy a liver in the Valencian Community. The rest of those involved were sentenced to a total of three and a half years in prison for their participation in the plot.
The person who was going to receive the organ was Hatem Akouche, the millionaire mayor of the Lebanese city of Al Kharayeb. In 2013, he commissioned the search for a compatible organ to several relatives who resided in Novelda, a municipality of about 25,000 inhabitants located in Alicante province.
Released this Wednesday by the Superior Court of Valencia, the sentence concluded that the defendants were responsible for the crime of promoting, favouring, or facilitating the illegal transplantation of foreign human organs. The court lowered the 69-year-old millionaire’s sentence by taking undue delays in the case into consideration.
Hatem Akouche admitted the facts after being arrested and was sentenced by the Valencia Court of Appeal in exchange for not being sent to prison. However, the Supreme Court annulled that sentence when the National Transplant Organisation was granted leave to appear as an injured party and the trial had to be repeated last November.
The Valencia Prosecutor’s Office requested three years in prison for the millionaire, but finally, the sentence was eight months. This is the second case of illegal inter-living organ transplantation to come to trial in Spain.
Akouche was received in his country as a hero after undergoing his surgery, after offering up to €40,000 to anyone who could help him overcome his incurable liver disease. He contacted two of his nephews and they began the search for possible candidates among various social organisations that supported refugees and mosques in Alicante.
A volunteer from an NGO that worked with immigrants without a residence permit was the one who raised the alarm. The worker found out that a 28-year-old Algerian woman who lived in Valencia had been offered money in exchange for delivering her liver. The woman volunteered to undergo tests, including a CT, an MRI, and a liver volumetry.
The National Police confirmed that those investigated were looking for organs in Spain. Investigators discovered that they selected nine people without financial resources to assess whether their liver was a match with that of the mayor of Al Kharayeb. However, the defendants rejected all the selected people, one of them for being a woman, and another for being pregnant.
“Finally, as no one could be found who was willing to take the risk and who would be admitted to the Hospital Clinic de Barcelona, a new test was carried out on the defendant’s son. A transplant was carried out on 26 August 2013, free of charge, between family members, as recommended by the medical team of the Hospital”, said the document.
Akouche was eventually detained in the VIP room of Valencia airport when he returned to Spain for a check-up in January 2014, as reported by elespanol.com.
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Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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