Romanian police questioned 30 people on Tuesday and searched the homes of six employees of a private fertility clinic who are suspected of illegally trafficking human eggs and selling them to Israeli couples with fertility problems.
The sale of human eggs for in vitro fertilization is illegal in Romania.
Police said employees at the clinic in Bucharest harvested the eggs from Romanian women aged 18 to 30, some of whom were students, paying them 600 to 800 Romanian leu ($180 to $250), then sold the eggs for €3,000 to €4,000 ($4,000 to $5,400).
Among those arrested were Professor Rafi Ron-El, head of the fertility department at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center near Rishon Letzion, and Daphna Komorovski, a lab technician.
Assaf Harofeh issued a statement: "We are unaware of the details of their [Ron-El's and Komorovski's] arrest. Prof. Ron-El has been involved in the Bucharest clinic's activities for 15 years, with permission from Israel's Health Ministry and with an official Romanian work license. Over the years, he has always operated according to Israeli and Romanian law and we are convinced that this time, again, there was no fault in his or the technician's work."
Authorities said they would not identify the clinic while their investigation is under way. However, journalists, including an Associated Press photographer, saw hooded police enter the Med New Life clinic in Bucharest on Tuesday and take an unidentified woman into custody. No one answered the clinic's telephones when The AP called to seek comment.
Police say a criminal network of 11 suspects has been involved in the illegal trafficking of human eggs, including Romanian and Israeli citizens from medical professions such as a doctor, nurse and embryologist.
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.