Madrid - Spanish police said on Wednesday they had arrested five people accused of offering cash to poor immigrants to buy a liver for transplant, the first such trafficking racket uncovered in Spain.

“Five people were detained for offering 40 000 euros ($55 000) to immigrants without resources so that they would offer themselves for a liver transplant... the first attempted sale of organs detected in Spain,” a police statement said.

“A rich Lebanese citizen who needed a transplant travelled to Spain and tried unsuccessfully to have the operation” by approaching several immigrants as potential donors, in Spain, it said.

“The illegal transplant did not end up being carried out thanks to our legislation and the Spanish system of transplant controls, which prevent the buying and selling of organs.”

Police gave no further details but said they would brief reporters in Madrid later on Wednesday.

Spain carries out more organ transplants than any other country in the world, despite health spending cuts over recent years in which the country has been stricken by a double recession.

Surgeons in Spain carried out a record total of 4 279 transplants in 2013, the state National Transplant Organisation said in January. It said the figure was partly thanks to a high number of donors. - AFP