Firm probed for illegal corpse tissue trade

Tutogen Medical GmbH, a Bavarian company specialised in human tissue implants, is being investigated by state prosecutors for illegally trading in body parts from Ukrainian corpses.

Firm probed for illegal corpse tissue trade
File photo of a donated organ. Photo: DPA

News magazine Der Spiegel this week revealed 1,000 pages of internal company documents detailing the lucrative business for body parts, reporting that family members were often not aware of what would happen to their loved ones after they died. On Tuesday, the magazine reported that in addition to being under investigation by state authorities, the company had dealings with a notorious US citizen jailed in 2008 for illegally harvesting human organs.

Between 2000-2001, some 1,152 Ukrainian bodies were used to make tissue implant products that were sold mainly to the United States in what has become a billion-dollar industry, the magazine said. One body can be harvested for up to $250,000 in prepared parts.

The Bamberg state prosecutor’s office said Monday it had opened an investigation of the Neunkirchen am Brand-based pharmaceutical company for desecration of the dead and illegal human tissue trade. Senior Prosecutor Joseph Düsel told the magazine that law enforcement officials had been notified by a witness in 2003, but this person refused to give details. Another anonymous tip in 2005 also did not lead to an investigation, he said.

“It’s also illegal when Germans commit a crime abroad,” Düsel said.

A Tutogen company statement on Monday rejected the magazine’s claims.

“The accusation of illegal tissue trade from the media is weak and incomprehensible,” the statement said, adding that the company maintained strict adherence to medical laws. “The tissue removal from a deceased donor is documented in detail and takes place with respect to all ethical principles of the donor and their family.”

But on Tuesday the magazine alleged that Tutogen bought around 1,000 corpses from Michael Mastromarino, an American sentenced to up to 58 years behind bars in 2008 for running an illegal body parts operation. His company, Biomedical Tissue Services (BTS), conducted underhanded deals with East Coast funeral homes, sometimes buying bodies that were so riddled with disease they were unfit to use for tissue implants. Mastromarino would then fake blood tests and family releases.

Mastromarino sold body parts to Tutogen Medical Inc., the US parent company of Tutogen GmbH., among four other companies. Tutogen creates tissue transplants made from human or animal bones, fascia, tendons, ligaments and cartilage.

The company has said it was not aware of BTS’s underhanded business practices and refused to speak with Der Spiegel on Tuesday.

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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.