(AP) – HANOI, Vietnam — A court in northern Vietnam has put 16 people on trial for allegedly selling more than 250 babies for foreign adoption, a court official said Tuesday.
The head of two social welfare centers in Nam Dinh province as well as several doctors and nurses at village clinics went on trial Tuesday, said Dang Viet Hung, the chief judge at the court hearing the case. The defendants are charged with "abuse of power and authority" and could face prison terms of five to 10 years.
The defendants allegedly solicited infants from unwed mothers and those from desperately poor families and falsified documents claiming the babies had been abandoned at village clinics, making them eligible for adoption, Hung said.
The ring sent 266 babies for foreign adoption from 2005 to July 2008, when the activity was discovered, Hung said. He did not know the countries of the adoptive parents.
Tuesday's Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper reported that each defendant illegally earned 5 million dong ($275) to 10 million dong ($550) overall.
Vietnam and the United States, one of the Southeast Asian country's largest recipients of children for adoption, have yet to renew their bilateral adoption agreement that expired in September.
The U.S. Embassy said in a report in April last year that Vietnam had failed to police its adoption system, allowing corruption, fraud and baby-selling to flourish.
The report described brokers scouring villages for babies, hospitals selling the infants of mothers who cannot pay their bills, and a grandmother giving away her grandchild without telling the child's mother.