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Monday, 2 April, 2001, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Human meat traded in Moldova

Authorities in Moldova have launched an investigation at a cancer clinic after two men were caught selling body parts as animal meat on the street.

The men told police that they got the parts - including a breast and legs - from the state clinic in Chisinau.

Moldova olive picker
Moldova's average monthly salary is just $30
Police arrested them after a customer who bought meat at their makeshift stall outside a butcher's shop in the capital became suspicious.

Tests proved that the meat, which the men were selling for less than $2 a kilo, was human flesh. The men were arrested for selling meat without a licence.

Europe's poorest

The clinic, which is obliged to incinerate body parts, now faces penalties for not disposing of the parts in the correct way.

Ten years after gaining its independence, Moldova has been declared the poorest country in Europe.

The average monthly salary is just $30 and many of the 4.5 million inhabitants, especially in rural areas, are paid in crops and other goods.

Many people have not received a wage in months - if they have a job at all.

A series of droughts left farmers struggling to maintain production.

Organs for sale

And severe cold towards the end of 2000 ruined crops and downed tens of thousands of electricity pylons, bringing chaos to towns and villages in central and northern Moldova.

Unable to feed their families, Moldovans are prepared to go to extreme lengths to find better-paid work overseas, leaving many villages almost deserted.

In February, BBC News Online reported the plight of Moldovans who sell their body parts for cash after the World Health Organisation warned that the practice had become an industry in Moldova.

Many Moldovans sell their organs to so-called recruiters acting for agents in western Europe, Turkey and Israel.

Some donors are sent on to Georgia; other operations have been conducted in the Estonian capital, Tallinn.

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30 Jan 01 | Europe
Moldova's electricity war
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Moldova
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