Human Organs Harvested in a Lab for Fashion Designer, Brazilian Police Say

Woman; hand; foot; museum

Human remains at a museum in Sydney, Australia. Police are investigating after a package containing human organs was sent from Brazil to Singapore this week. Photo: AFP/Torsten BLACKWOOD

Brazilian Federal Police have revealed that a human hand, along with three packets of human placenta, have been packed and shipped off to Singapore. 

The anti-human trafficking operation took place on Tuesday morning, with a raid carried out at the Amazonas State University (UEA) in the city of Manaus. Authorities stated the organs were bound “for a famous Indonesian designer who sells accessories and garments using materials of human nature.” 

According to a statement released by Brazilian Federal Police, which acted on tip-offs and raided the school’s anatomy lab, the organs were preserved by an anatomy professor using a method known as plastination—which replaces bodily fluids and fat with materials like silicon and epoxy to preserve them. 

“The anatomy lab of a local university performed the extraction of body fluids,” the police statement read. “There are indications that a package containing a hand and three placentas of human origin were posted from Manaus to Singapore.”

Speaking to VICE World News on an encrypted phone call, a federal police officer in Brazil confirmed points made in the statement and said that the organs, bound for Singapore, had already left Brazilian shores. It remains unclear whether the package containing the human organs has been intercepted yet. 

Calls to the university went unanswered, but officials reported that a member of staff had been suspended after the police “search and seizure” operation. The professor is now under investigation, with authorities determining whether the crime of international trafficking in human organs has occurred, an act carrying a jail sentence of up to eight years in Brazil. 

“The rectory of the University of Amazonas complied with the court order and determined the opening of the investigation to investigate the facts and responsibilities,” the statement in Portuguese read.  

The disturbing black market trade in human organs is far-flung, sophisticated and extremely lucrative. Although trafficking in organs remains illegal in almost every nation—Iran being a notable exception—the specifics of laws differ, complicating prosecutions if they involve more than one country, according to crime prevention reports conducted by global watchdogs and bodies like the UN.

In Brazil, the buying and selling of human organs constitutes a state crime punishable by law. A case that played out in 2011 saw three Brazilian doctors charged with murder and jailed for killing patients at an upscale private clinic in Sao Paulo after removing their kidneys and preparing their organs for transport. 

In the case of the Singapore-bound package, the alleged recipient of the body parts is infamous Indonesian fashion influencer and designer Arnold Putra, who rose to infamy back in 2020 when he fashioned a handbag made of human bones—which he claims were “ethically” and “medically sourced from Canada with papers.” 

The grisly use of human blood, flesh, organs and bones isn’t new to the art world. Several artists have drawn outrage over the years, including British artist Anthony-Noel Kelly, whose fascination with human body parts led him to illegally smuggle human remains for his work, for which he was jailed nine months. In 2007, prominent British artist Damien Hirst fashioned a platinum cast of a human skull that was encrusted with diamonds, and featured real human teeth, for a provocative piece he called, For the Love of God.

Putra also caused outrage back in his home country last month when he wore an outfit inspired by a far-right paramilitary group at Paris Haute Couture Week, frolicking with high-profile designers and celebrities. The group ran death squads during Indonesia’s genocide in the 1960s.

VICE World News reached out to Singapore border authorities and Putra for comment about the organ trafficking allegations, but they did not respond before publishing.

In a brief exchange with VICE World News that took place in January, Putra previously said that he would be travelling to Singapore in February for Lunar New Year celebrations. He did not respond to follow-up questions around his February visit. 

Checks on Instagram also showed his previously public account now locked. 

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