Fifteen people involved in the black-market organ trade - including doctors - have been sentenced to prison by a Beijing court for harvesting and selling 51 kidneys, the largest haul in recent mainland history.
The group's mastermind, Zheng Wei, 46, was sentenced to 12 years in jail by the No 1 Intermediate People's Court on Wednesday, while 14 other members received terms between 3-1/2 years and nine years, the Beijing Times reported. They were charged with coercing people into selling their organs.
From 2010 to 2012 the group harvested kidneys from people willing to have one of their vital organs cut out in exchange for 21,000 yuan (HK$26,400) to 25,000 yuan.
They transported the kidneys to a major Beijing hospital. Clients would allegedly pay more than 200,000 yuan to Zheng.
The hospital's name was not disclosed by the court and it was unclear if the institution would be liable.
The group included three doctors hired by Zheng from small public hospitals in Xuzhou , Jiangsu province, who were engaged in removing kidneys from "suppliers".
The other members of the group were asked to search for potential suppliers and clients through channels such as social media, take them for physical examinations and look after donors after their kidneys were removed.
In its first four months, the operations were based in a community health centre in Xuzhou which Zheng rented for more than 60,000 yuan in total.
Zheng said that just after the operations, he would immediately drive 800km from Xuzhou to Beijing to deliver the kidneys, which were kept in an ice box. The trip takes eight to nine hours.
In one case, Zheng was involved in a traffic accident that left three kidneys damaged, forcing him to move their operations base to an area close to the Beijing hospital.
Zheng also rented a fourstorey house in Beijing's Haidian district and turned it into an underground hospital, equipped with an operation room, observation room, a dormitory for doctors, nurses and suppliers, a drug warehouse and canteens.
Statistics from the country's health authority show that more than 10,000 organ transplants are performed each year, but 1.5 million patients remain on the waiting list.