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CLIFFORD COONAN/The Irish Times
September 30, 2009
SIX VIETNAMESE health officials and charity workers in the northern province of Nam Dinh have been sentenced to jail for arranging over 300 fraudulent adoptions.
The six were jailed for two to four and a half years for “abuse of power”, said Nguyen Tien Hung, vice-president of the Nam Dinh People’s Court.
While the vast majority of adoptions from Vietnam are legitimate, there have been question marks over some unscrupulous operators after the US embassy in Hanoi last year accused the Vietnamese authorities of failing to properly control the country’s adoption system, and said it had found evidence of corruption, fraud and baby-selling.
Among those convicted from the fraud ring, which operated from 2005 to July 2008, were two heads of provincial welfare centres, doctors, nurses and local officials.
Vu Dinh Ky, former head of a commune medical centre, received 28 million dong (€1,078) for faking the documents of 14 newborn children. Local media reported him telling the court “it was just to help the babies”. He was sentenced to four and a half years in jail, while his counterpart Tran Thi Luong in Y Yen District got three and a half years.
The officials were found to have filed false papers to allow as many as 266 babies from poor families to be adopted, many by parents in France, Italy and the US. Ten other people received suspended sentences of 15 to 18 months.
Sentencing, the judges said the ring’s actions had defamed the central government and adversely affected its humanitarian policy.
Following the US accusations, Vietnam subsequently suspended a bilateral adoption agreement. An investigation by US authorities found that some agencies in the US had paid €6,800 in “donations” per child to orphanages, after officials had forged birth certificates and wrongly identified the infants as abandoned.
Concerns over Vietnamese adoption monitoring led the Irish adoption authorities not to renew a bilateral adoption agreement with Vietnam earlier this year, and Minister for Children Barry Andrews said he wanted to wait for a new Unicef report on the process before signing a new agreement.
Fine Gael has asked the Government to introduce an interim adoption agreement to allow couples already cleared for the process to adopt Vietnamese children.
The Vietnamese government is drafting a new adoption law which would delegate the ministry of justice as the only agency with the authority to introduce children to adoptive parents and to issue official adoption decisions, the Thanh Nien daily reported this week.