Peruvian gang sold human fat to European cosmetic firms
from Deutsche Welle
November 21, 2009
Authorities in Peru said that the gang had gone undetected for perhaps 30 years and was believed to be responsible for the murder of at least 60 people, and then selling their fat to foreign traders.
Police have arrested three Peruvian men and a woman, and are hunting for two unnamed Italians suspected of buying the human fat for as much as $15,000 (10,000 euros) a liter to be used in European cosmetics. Seven suspects in total remain at large.
Peruvian police general, Eusebio Felix, said that “those detained have confessed.”
Jorge Sanz Quiroz, a prosecutor in the case, said that the two Italians had been identified but that their names could not be released until they were captured. One of the Italians is said to have left for Europe.
Police hope the arrests will help solve the mysterious disappearances of a large number of people, including children, from villages in the central Peruvian provinces of Huanaco and Pasco.
So far, police have found the remains of only one victim, but one of the suspects, 56-year-old Hilario Cudena, is said to have told police he had committed various murders for the gang since he was 20 years old.
Cudena is accused of being part of a “brotherhood,” which called itself the “Pishtacos of Huallaga,” a reference to a fabled Andean bogeyman, who killed people for their fat.
The gang was uncovered earlier this month when police arrested an individual traveling on a bus to the capital Lima in possession of what laboratory tests showed was 17 liters of human fat, allegedly worth about $255,000 (170,000 euros).
Later, police discovered a supply of fat at the home of another alleged gang member, Elmer Castillejos, in a Huanaco village.
But at least one expert has doubts there is much of a market for illicit human fat.
Julio Castro, head of the Medical College of Peru, said that plastic surgeons extracted fat from patients every day, but it is not sold because it is full of impurities.
Human fat, however, is similar to pig fat and was collected in Europe in past centuries from executed prisoners for cosmetic and medicinal purposes.