Friday, June 13, 2008

New Liver? One Million for the Visa, $100,000 for the Hospital

Hi Blog,

Today's LA Times On-line has a new article on the spate of Yakuza who either came or tried to come to LA for liver surgeries. I previously wrote about this brouhaha here, but this article is of interest for these reasons:

  • Two of the patients donated $100,000 each to UCLA within months of their surgeries, although hospital officials say no preferential treatment was given in exchange for the gifts.
  • Busuttil [ Note: He's the legendary liver transplant surgeon who performed Yakuza leader Goto's surgery ] did not directly address whether he wrote a letter to the embassy on Inagawa's behalf but said he believes that "individuals seeking a U.S. visa for medical treatment are required to substantiate their application with supporting documentation such as a doctor's letter. If I am asked by a referring doctor to provide such a written medical assessment for a person in dire need of lifesaving medical treatment, I do so."

    The U.S. State Department confirmed that it requires such a letter.

    Busuttil went on to say: "I believe it is unethical to discriminate among patients on the basis of nonmedical factors. . . . The healthcare professionals in our liver transplant program have saved the lives of nearly 5,000 babies, children and adults from all walks of life, and of varying nationalities and economic status."
Sorry to interrupt but I have to comment here: "5,000 babies, children and adults from all walks of life..." Seriously? So are there Yakuza babies?
  • The Westwood medical center had developed a reputation among Japanese organized crime figures as the place to go to for transplants, two of the three sources said. Its appeal grew after Tadamasa Goto, whom law enforcement officials identify as a powerful gang leader, received a new liver at UCLA in 2001 and returned to Japan looking healthy and vibrant, they said.
"UCLA became the place," said the lawyer, who specializes in finance and has extensive knowledge of gangs in Japan. "That's how these guys think. One guy does something, the rest of them want to do it."
One stop shopping...

And here's what a former FBI agent that was involved in the visa petitioning process for a Yakuza who wanted to come into the states had to say about his involvement:
  • "I went to the American Embassy and said, 'This gentleman is trying to get into the United States for surgery. He's willing to make a large donation to the hospital that lets him in. I suspect he has some nefarious connections, and you tell me if you want him to come in or not,' " Revell said.
"They came back and said, 'We are not interested in his coming in, irrespective of the amount of money that he might contribute' " to a hospital or the type of information he was willing to provide.
"Gentleman?" Wow. By the way, I like that he makes a point of mentioning the large potential donation that the Yakuza would make to the hospital -- as if that would sweeten the deal.

More of this brilliance can be read here.

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