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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

S. Korean Scientist Dealt With Mafia

SEOUL, South Korea -- Disgraced South Korean stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk said Tuesday that he had spent part of private donations for research to pay the Russian mafia for mammoth tissue to clone extinct elephant species.

Hwang, once celebrated as a national hero, was indicted in May on charges of fraud and embezzlement after prosecutors said he was the mastermind of a scheme to make it look as though his team had produced stem cells through cloning human embryos.

He previously told a Seoul court that he had spent part of more than 1 billion won ($1 million) in corporate donations for "peripheral activities related to research."

"Some of the money was spent in contacting the Russia mafia as we tried to clone mammoths," Hwang told the court during a hearing on Tuesday. "But you can't say that [on the expense claim], so we expensed it as money for cows for experiment."

Hwang previously said he obtained mammoth tissue from glaciers and tried to clone them three times but failed.

Prosecutors have charged Hwang with fraud to secure funds and misusing 2.8 billion won ($2.9 million) in state funds and private donations as well as violating bioethics laws in procuring human eggs for research.