World

Missing 6-year-old Colombian was sold to organ traffickers, suspect tells investigators

A 6-year-old girl missing for nearly a year in a small western Colombia town is feared to be dead after a suspect said her body parts were sold to organ traffickers.

Paula Nicole Palacios Narvaez was kidnapped as she came out of school on Dec. 28, 2014.

According to El Tiempo, the country's leading newspaper, Jose German Paguatian Isandara confessed his involvement in the crime. “The last I heard was that she was sold for her organs ... that buyers would be in Cali awaiting the arrival of the child. After that I do not know where they took her. We currently do not know if he's alive or dead."

Another female suspect, thought to have ordered the kidnapping, Blanca Digna Lopez Lopez, reportedly said “trafficking children and people is a good business.”

Pagutian said Lopez ordered the kidnapping as an act of revenge against the girl's family. Authorities believe a disagreement over land boundaries could have been one of the motives, according to El Tiempo.

The confession came after Pagutian betrayed his four accomplices following his arrest last month.

He said the little girl was going to be sold for $50 to $60 million pesos ($15 to $20,000 U.S. dollars).

Countries throughout Latin America, Asia and the Middle East are among the nations where organ trafficking has become a major business as demand for these body parts rises in some Asian, African and European nations but also in the United States, where in 2009 an FBI sting reeled in an alleged "matchmaker" who bought organs in Israel for $10,000 and sold them  in the U.S. for as much as $160,000.

Unlike drug and sex trafficking, there is little reliable information on the trade but it is believed to be on the increase, with brokers allegedly charging between $100,000 and $ 200,000 to organize a transplant for wealthy patients, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

"The international trade in human organs is on the increase fueled by growing demand as well as unscrupulous traffickers," WHO said in a statement. "The rising trend has prompted a serious reappraisal of current legislation, while WHO has called for more protection for the most vulnerable people who might be tempted to sell a kidney for as little as US$1,000."

Despite the confessions of the Colombian suspects, some experts believe organ transplant trafficking is nothing but a "fantasy."

"The trafficking of organs is a fantasy invented by people, we don't know by whom," said Dr. Carlos Eduardo Valdés. "There can be no organ trafficking in Colombia because there is a strict control of bodies and organs in Colombia through the Ministry of Health," he told El Tiempo.