Spanish police on Monday said they had busted the owners of a funeral parlour in Valencia for allegedly selling dead bodies to university research departments for 1,200 euros (about R24,000) per corpse.
The four suspects, two owners and two employees, also helped the universities dispose of the bodies after they had been studied by incinerating them or disposing of their dismembered parts in other coffins slated for cremation.
Most of the bodies were of people without any family.
The suspects "falsified documentation to get the bodies from hospitals and retirement homes in order to later sell them to universities for research for 1,200 euros per corpse," a police statement said.
The suspects had sold at least 11 bodies, it added.
In some cases, they even billed the universities for cremations which never happened.
"They billed one university 5,040 euros for incinerating 11 bodies after being studied, which were not accounted for in the invoices of any of the crematoriums in the city," police said.
Police began investigating in early 2023 after discovering that two funeral parlour employees had taken a body from a hospital morgue using false documents and brought it to university researchers rather than burying it.
The body belonged to a man who was to be buried in his home town in an interment paid for by the local council, but instead was sold for study without anyone's consent.
The suspects "looked for people who had died without any living relatives, preferably foreigners," police said.
In another case, the suspects allegedly managed to persuade an elderly man with impaired mental faculties to agree to donate his body to science.
"That donor form said the body should be sent to a certain medical facility, but in the end it was taken to another" which "paid more money", the police statement said.
The suspects are facing charges of fraud and the falsification of documents.