THE HAGUE - A Dutch university hospital backed by Europol is to lead an international enquiry into illegal organ trafficking to determine organised crime's involvement.
"Erasmus hospital wants to gather information about this serious and relatively new form of criminality in order to fight it better," Rotterdam's Erasmus university hospital said in a statement on Thursday.
Institutions in Romania, Sweden, Bulgaria and Spain will also take part in the three-year study, which is financed by the European Commission.
"Because of the great demand for organs, there are more and more indicators of 'organ tourism', whereby a patient travels abroad with the aim of receiving a transplanted organ which may have been bought," Erasmus said.
"Donors are often victims of human trafficking."
"We know little about how often this happens and how criminal organisations, doctors or others are involved," it added.
The study will focus on how exactly organs are illegally removed, usually kidneys or livers.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as well as organ allocation body Eurotransplant and the European Society for Organ Transplantation are also taking part in the study.
An international probe has already been opened into allegations of organ trafficking by Kosovo Albanian rebels in the 1990s, including the removal of organs from live prisoners.
Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty alleged in a 2010 report that senior Kosovo Liberation Army commanders - including current Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci - were involved in organised crime.