Two Israelis were among 11 people arrested in Romania on Tuesday on suspicion that they had illegally trafficked human eggs and sold them to Israeli couples with fertility problems.
Police questioned 30 people and searched the homes of six employees of a private fertility clinic.
The sale of human eggs for in vitro fertilization is illegal in Romania.
The two Israelis arrested were Professor Raphael Ron-El and Dafna Komarovsky. Ron-El is head of the In Vitro Fertilization Clinic at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center and is considered a leading Israeli fertility expert. Komarovsky works with him as a laboratory technician.
A statement released by Assaf Harofeh that said Ron-El “has worked for 15 years with this clinic in Bucharest clinic, with the approval of the Israeli Health Ministry and with a Romanian work license. Throughout that time, his actions have been in accordance with Israeli and Romanian law.”
The statement said the hospital believes the actions of Ron-El and Komarovsky will be deemed beyond reproach.
Police said employees at the clinic in Bucharest harvested the eggs from Romanian women aged 18 to 30, some of them students, paying them between €600 and €800 ($450 and $600), then sold the eggs for €3,000-4,000 ($2,250-3,000).
Authorities said they would not identify the clinic while their investigation was still under way. However, journalists, including an Associated Press photographer, saw hooded police enter the Med New Life clinic in the capital on Tuesday and take an unidentified woman into custody. No one answered the clinic’s telephones when the AP called to seek comment.
Most of the people who benefited from the service were Israeli women who visited Romania for artificial insemination, and the suspects made “considerable financial gains” through this illegal human egg trafficking, police said in a statement.
In November, a Romanian court sentenced four Israeli doctors in absentia to five years in prison in a separate egg-trafficking case.
The doctors, Harry and Yair Miron, Nathan Levitt and Genya Ziskind, have all appealed the sentence from Israel.