A Ukrainian school teacher is facing up to 15 years in jail after she was allegedly caught trying to sell one of her high school students to organ traffickers for over $13,000 in a bid to clear growing personal debt.
52-year-old Galina Kovalenko appeared in court on Wednesday after she was arrested and charged with human trafficking on Monday by undercover police who were posing as traffickers at the time, AFP reports.
Following her arrest, Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov wrote on Facebook, "[Kovalenko was] caught red-handed as she took the girl from her boarding school, led her to the buyers and received money."
Kovalenko, however, is denying the charges and claims she has been set up.
The Ukrainian grandmother had been teaching for 22 years and had been working as a language teacher at the boarding school for gifted children for six years when she was arrested.
"I do not admit guilt. Someone is trying to set me up," Kovalenko told journalists in court on Wednesday.
Avakov wrote in another Facebook post that Kovalenko had "been working for nearly a year on this project" and claimed that "the buyer even asked about the child's state of health, hinting at organ removal -- and she agreed to provide the girl's photos and medical record for an additional 1,000 hryvnias [$52 AUD]."
"A teacher tried to sell a 13-year-old girl for 10,000 USD. She is not human - she was caught but she stays calm. She tried to sell her student for 10,000 USD. She chose the buyer, negotiated the price. She suggested bringing the girl to a place fixed by the buyer and to put her into his car."
Kovalenko is now being held in custody, where she will spend two months awaiting a trial.
The 13-year-old girl is said to be safe and well.