Chinese authorities have seized 7,221 human penises on a cargo ship from Nigeria in what is the world’s biggest seizure of human organs in history.
The organs which were hidden in a refrigerated freight container were seized when the ship harboured in the Shanghai Port following information from an anonymous informer who alerted the Chinese authorities.
The organs were packed in 36 boxes labelled as ‘plantains’ inside the refrigerated container on a ship that transited from Lagos, Nigeria, and the ship’s crew consisting of four Nigerians, two Malians, and two Cameronese now being detained.
Speaking on the seizure, the spokesman of the Chinese general administration of customs, Li Wu, says an increasingly large number of armed groups in Africa use organ trafficking to finance themselves, making such seizures predictable.
“These organs are common commodities now, but they were certainly harvested in unsanitary conditions or contaminated at some point, so we can’t let them out on the Chinese market,” he said.
Mr Li says the organs were shipped from Lagos in Nigeria but may have only transited through that country and could possibly originate from elsewhere in Africa.
“We know that penises from Lybia and Sudan fetch a higher price than those from other African war zones, but can’t presume of their origin before the end of the investigation.”
Describing the organ’s value as high as illegal drugs, he said that “specimens of this size” usually fetched around $160,000 each on the black market, and its total value was more than US$1.15 billion, adding that similar seizures may become more common over the next few years as armed groups in Africa turn to organ trafficking to finance their military operations.
Human penises were seized in nine cases since 2002, but today’s find represents more than four times the amount seized by customs officers over the past 18 years.