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'Dr Kidney' taken to Kathmandu for interrogation

world Updated: Feb 08, 2008 12:47 IST
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As dawn was breaking on Friday over the picturesque district of Chitwan in south Nepal, a police team escorted Indian fugitive Amit Kumar, who had allegedly masterminded a massive illegal kidney transplant racket spanning several countries, to Kathmandu for fresh interrogation.

"The police team left for Kathmandu at four in the morning," Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Kiran Gautam told IANS.

"They reached the capital around 7 am. Amit Kumar is now in the Hanumandhoka police station for fresh interrogation," he added.

Amit Kumar, who had been on the run since last month after his illegal racket that duped hundreds of victims into parting with their kidneys for a pittance came to light, had sneaked into Bharatpur, the main town in Chitwan Tuesday, Gautam said.

The Indian, for whose capture the Interpol had sounded a red alert, had come to the Terai town by road from Kathmandu.

In Kathmandu, on the basis of telephone calls, police traced him to the five-star Radisson Hotel, where he had stayed Jan 28.

Gautam said: "We had alerted our informers that Kumar could try to hide in Chitwan. We were tipped off Thursday that he had checked into the Wildlife Lodge in the Chitwan national park. Our team went there around 5 pm and arrested him from the lobby."

He said Amit Kumar appeared to be composed when police accosted him.

"He was asked if his name was Amit Kumar and he answered in the affirmative," Guatam said.

Amit Kumar told the police he had come to Chitwan to explore the possibility of opening a kidney transplant centre there.

He was found carrying a small fortune in foreign currencies as well as a bank draft.

Gautam said police found that Kumar had made out the draft to himself for Indian Rs.936,000. He was also carrying 145,000 euros (about $215,000) and $18,900.

The DIG said that contrary to media reports, Kumar alone had been arrested and sent to Kathmandu for further investigation.

Media reports on Friday said Kumar could have been accompanied by two accomplices, one of whom could be a Nepali.

The trio, the Kantipur daily said, had checked into another hotel earlier but moved out of it when they found their room did not have a television set.

Kumar was said to have been scanning the news anxiously for any reference to his escape to Nepal, an anxiety that gave him away.

After he checked into Wildlife Lodge, he reportedly clipped out the front-page report carried by the Himalayan Times daily on Thursday, saying police had traced him to the Radisson Hotel in Kathmandu and his agent in Nepal had been identified as a man named Pankaj Jha.

The lodge staff became suspicious at this and informed the police, the daily said.

Kumar's arrest could pave the way for more arrests. Nepal police will investigate if he is involved in any case in Nepal.

Last year, Nepal police busted three major kidney transplant scams in which the victims were taken to Chennai, Chandigarh and Lucknow with promises of lucrative jobs, which were a façade for making them part with a kidney for meagre sums, often as low as Nepali Rs 15,000 - less than Rs 10,000 in Indian currency.

If Kumar is linked to any of them, he will be tried in accordance with Nepal's laws in the Himalayan state first.

Only after the legal formalities are complete in Nepal is he likely to be handed over to the Indian authorities.

Given the snail's pace at which Nepal's judiciary works it could be months before his trial begins in Kathmandu.

Due to the high profile of the accused, he is unlikely to be released on bail and is likely to be lodged in the Hanumandhoka cell or Kathmandu's central jail while the investigation is completed and the trial takes place.