September 22, 2009 / canada.com
HANOI - Sixteen people accused of falsifying papers for adoption went on trial in Vietnam on Tuesday, in a case that raised fears of international human trafficking, a court official and local media said.
Among the accused are two directors of social welfare centres in northern Nam Dinh province, Thanh Nien newspaper reported. Doctors, nurses and local officials are also on trial, it said.
They are accused of "abuse of power in the exercise of their public missions", a court official in Nam Dinh said, requesting anonymity.
The accused allegedly assembled false documents of abandonment to allow the adoption of 266 infants by foreigners between 2005 and 2008, according to reports in both Thanh Nien and the Phap Luat (Law) newspaper.
The arrests of the two key suspects came in July last year, three months after the U.S. embassy in Hanoi detailed endemic baby-selling and graft in Vietnam's adoption system.
That U.S. report led Vietnam to suspend a bilateral adoption agreement.
The U.S. probe found that some American adoption agencies had paid 10,000-dollar "donations" per child to orphanages after officials had forged birth certificates and wrongly identified the infants as abandoned.
In some cases, the natural parents had been cheated into giving up their babies, while other infants had been procured from illegal centres that paid pregnant women to give up their newborns, the U.S. investigation found.
Vu Duc Long, head of the Vietnamese Justice Ministry's International Adoptions Department, said then that most children sent for overseas adoption from the two Nam Dinh centres had ended up in France and Italy, and some in the United States.
The children came from a disabled children's home and a social protection centre.
Vietnam and the United States had resumed adoptions in 2006, three years after the program was suspended over similar concerns.
The trial is scheduled to last until next Monday, a court official said.