Pristina: The EU mission in Kosovo has launched a preliminary investigation into allegations that Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci once led a ring trafficking in human organs, an official said on Friday.
The EU mission, known as EULEX, cited a Council of Europe reported in December that suggested Thaci was once the "boss" of a criminal underworld behind the alleged organ trade during the 1998-99 war against Serbia, EU mission spokesman Karin Limdal said. Thaci has denied that.
The mission said it took those allegations "very seriously" and was "ready, willing and able to assume responsibility" for a judicial process, Limdal said in a statement.
The December report alleges that civilian detainees of the now-disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army rebels were shot dead to sell their kidneys on the black market at that time.
Thaci, who was a leader of the guerrilla group in the 1998-1999 war against Serbia, has denied the allegations and claimed they were aimed at damaging Kosovo`s image internationally. He and other Kosovo leaders have called for an investigation.
EU officials appealed for those who could help the investigation and present evidence.
"As a rule of law mission, we work on the basis of fact and evidence. Without evidence, prosecutions cannot take place," the EU statement said. "If we receive this information, our prosecutors are ready to follow up immediately."
Swiss Senator Dick Marty, a Council of Europe investigator, led a team of investigators to Kosovo and Albania in 2009, following allegations of organ trafficking published in a book by former UN War Crimes tribunal prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, who said she was given information by Western journalists.
Marty`s investigation found that there were a number of detention facilities in Albania, where both Kosovan opponents of the KLA and Serbs were allegedly held once the hostilities in Kosovo were over in 1999, including a "state-of-the-art reception centre for the organised crime of organ trafficking”.
Albania also has said it is open to an international investigation.
So far, EU investigators looking into claims that organ harvesting took place in northern Albania have said they found no proof of the allegations.