Acting Bulgarian Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov has said that the authorities are investigating 14 cases of foreign nationals receiving illegal kidney transplants in Bulgaria.
"Initial evidence indicates gross breaches of the law and good medical practice," Rashkov told reporters on June 24. "The culpable persons need to be identified and brought to prosecution and trial."
The inquiry was prompted by statements made by Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov earlier this month.
Katsarov said on June 3 that at least for some of the transplants carried out between 2019 and April this year at the state-run Lozenets Hospital in Sofia, the recipients of the kidneys were registered under false identities and documents to prove their relation to the donors.
In all 14 cases, young Moldovans and Ukrainians were identified with false documents as relatives of kidney recipients from Israel, Germany, and Oman, among other countries, Katsarov said. Under the Bulgarian law, donors must be family members of the recipients.
Following a notice from Interpol warning about fraudulent transplants, Bulgarian authorities conducted identity checks that proved that documents presented were not genuine.
Rahskov told reporters that Bulgarian investigators had been in contact with Moldovan authorities about the cases.
Katsarov fired the hospital director over the operations as well as other shortcomings earlier this month, although Lozenets Hospital has denied any wrongdoing.
Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest member, has been under fire from Brussels for rampant organized crime and endemic corruption.