"The police arrested a 42-year-old man, Ajania Robel, of Israel, who had just undergone a kidney transplant in Durban," police spokeswoman Mary Martins-Engelbrecht told AFP on Thursday. 

He was arrested upon his discharge from a private hospital in the eastern port city of Durban on Wednesday and would face charges of contravening South Africa's Human Tissue Act which outlaws any trade in human organs. 

"Another Johannesburg man, of Israeli origin, Meir Shushan, was also arrested. We suspect him to be the middleman," Martins-Engelbrecht said. 

Brazil link

The arrests came after Brazilian police on Tuesday nabbed 11 people - nine Brazilians and two Israelis - who allegedly searched for volunteers to sell one of their kidneys. 

The syndicate organised medical examinations and blood tests to match a donor's compatibility with a potential recipient, after which the organ donors were taken to Durban where they were paid $10,000 to undergo surgery. 

The kidneys were then supposedly sold for $120,000 to
desperate patients. 

"We suspect the two cases (in Brazil and South Africa) are linked and we are working closely with them," Martins-Engelbrecht said. 

"We have been investigating this case for months and it is at a very sensitive stage," she added. 

Martins-Engelbrecht said Robel and Shushan, 49, who had been living in South Africa for 17 years, both appeared in court on Wednesday and were released on bail. The hearing was deferred to 10 February.