A Malaysian man was arrested on Saturday as he tried to smuggle a live human embryo into India through Mumbai’s airport.
The smuggler, Partiban Durai, told police that this was the tenth trip smuggling embryos on behalf of a fertility clinic called Indo Nippon over an 18-month period, according to The Times of India — though the clinic is pushing back against his story.
Durai had hidden the embryo in a “nitrogen-packed canister,” according to the Times.
It’s common for people to travel to India for fertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), which is what Durai said the embryo he had hidden in his luggage was for. That’s because the treatments tend to be cheaper and less regulated than in other countries, according to the Times.
IVF can cost around $5,000 in Malaysia, which is where the smuggled embryo originated. Meanwhile, IVF in Mumbai costs closer to $2,000. Still, importing embryos into India is illegal unless it’s for medical research purposes.
Indo Nippon’s founder, Goral Gandhi, denied any involvement with the smuggling. But Durai shared text messages that seem to corroborate his story with the police, the Times reported, and police have found other incriminating communications between Indo Nippon and a Malaysian surrogate agency called Heart to Art.
“This company acts as an agent for illegally sending embryos to India,” an official told the Times.
READ MORE: Flyer from Malaysia held for trying to smuggle in embryo [The Times of India]