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The CEO of a company that runs a controversial exhibit of "unclaimed" human bodies from China, has reclaimed his job as head of the company after having stepped down following an ABC News 20/20 investigation into where the bodies came from.
Officials at the New York Attorney General's office say they are "shocked" that Arnie Geller was able to reclaim his job as CEO of Premier Exhibitions, given the ABC News report and the NY Attorney General's legal action taken against the company for its ethical lapses with regards to displaying the remains on non-consenting individuals during the time he ran the company.
Geller reclaimed his title as CEO in August, after having submitted his resignation in March, weeks after a 20/20 report on the company's practices triggered the inquiry by the Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office.
Geller said in a statement that he believes the company "has a bright future" and that he is "energized by [his]return to an active role in its day-to-day management."
The 20/20 report disputed the company's and Geller's account that all of the bodies came from a medical school in Dalian, China.
School officials told 20/20 it was "not true" that the school provides bodies for display in the United States. Instead, the report found the bodies were provided by a private company run by a professor from the medical university which initially supplied the bodies but had pulled out because of bad publicity.
The 20/20 report discovered a thriving black market in Chinese bodies, and a self-admitted dealer in the bodies black market described "body runs" to a location where bodies, including those of executed prisoners, were sold for $200 to $300.
Premier settled with Cuomo's office in May, and the terms of the settlement required the company to prove that any new bodies on display were from consenting individuals.
Premier was forced to post a sign at its New York exhibit and state clearly on its website that it cannot disprove the allegations that bodies on display come from executed prisoners. The company is also required to refund tickets of customers who would not have seen the show if they had known what was going on behind the scenes. Cuomo also requires that the company be monitored by an independent entity for two years to ensure that the new business practices are enacted.
'Bodies' Exhibit Controversy
Premier did not announce the March change in management in a press release according to a review of its Web site, but the company's general counsel, Brian Wainger, said Geller left his CEO position because "he decided it was time to retire," and that his resignation was not connected to the questions raised about the human bodies or to Geller's appearance on 20/20.
Neither Geller nor Wainger responded to requests for comment on this story.
The company did release a statement at the time it settled with Cuomo's office. "In the settlement, the Attorney General did not find that the company utilizes the remains of executed prisoners in its exhibition," the company said, adding that it "cannot independently confirm that the individualized organs and body parts at the exhibition were note taken from executed prisoners."
The company said it "must rely on the affirmations of its Chinese supplier" that the specimens do not come from the remains of executed prisoners.
Geller told ABC News 20/20 in February that he was appalled at the allegations that some of the bodies from his Chinese suppliers might be those of executed prisoners. He said his own medical staff had seen no such evidence and that his suppliers have assured him that "these are all legitimate, unclaimed bodies that have gone through Dalian Medical University."
"If these can actually be attributed to even the people that we're doing business with, we would have to do something about that immediately," Geller said.