A teacher at a boarding school for orphans and troubled teenagers in eastern Kharkiv region, Ukraine, has been arrested for trying to sell a 13-year-old student to traffickers.
Galina Kovalenko, 52, was arrested during a sting operation as she reportedly tried to hand over the girl, who has not been named, to organ traffickers for $10,000, reported Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov on his Facebook page.
An anti-human trafficking unit had been monitoring the woman, who teaches literature and Russian and Ukrainian languages, for four months. The authorities suspect she was plotting her “business plan” for over a year and purposefully chose a vulnerable girl.
The buyers’ actions apparently implied the girl’s organs would be removed by asking about her health and her medical records.
“They got this seller 'red-handed' — when she took the girl out of the boarding school, brought her to the buyers and received money,” Avakov said.
Avakov said he would personally handle the case and urged the law enforcement agencies to investigate into the boarding school.
If convicted, Kovalenko could spend up to 12 years in jail but Avakov, “as a man and father,” believes such crime should get life imprisonment.
More than 160,000 people have been trafficked from Ukraine since its independence in 1991, according to the International Organization of Migration, making it the largest source of slave labor in Europe. Victims face forced labor, sexual assault and forced begging in addition to organ harvesting.
In just 2016, there have been 777 recorded instances of human trafficking in the country, stated Iryna Lutsenko, a Ukrainian MP.
Organ trafficking, not surprisingly, is a very lucrative business, earning criminals up to $1.2 billion in black money and resulting in 10,000 illegal transplants each year.
Last year, over a dozen countries signed the first ever treaty to fight this grim trade, banning the donor or a third party from making money from organ donations and granting victims compensation.
Hearts, kidneys, livers or any other vital organ can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 in Ukraine.