Six Jailed by Vietnamese Court for Involvement in Adoption Scam

Date: 2009-09-29

Chris Dade
A court in Vietnam has jailed six people, including two directors of social welfare centers, for their part in a scam which resulted in Vietnamese children being sold to adoptive parents in France, Italy and the U.S.

The court in the Nam Dinh province in Northern Vietnam heard cases brought against 16 people in total, police are still seeking two others suspected of involvement in the scam, and when guilty verdicts were returned for all those on trial jail sentences were handed down to six individuals.
According to Thanh Nien News the vice-president of the Nam Dinh People’s Court, Nguyen Tien Hung, said that those being jailed had been found guilty of “abuse of power in public duty”.

The heaviest jail sentence, four and a half years, was handed down to Vu Dinh Khan, former director of Truc Ninh District Social Welfare Center. Another social welfare center director, Tran Thi Luong from the Y Yen District, received a three and a half year sentence.

Two former heads of commune medical stations in Y Yen District were jailed. Truong Cong Lich was given a three year sentence and Vu Dinh Loi was jailed for two years.

Vu Van Kiem, accountant and cashier of the Truc Ninh social center, was also jailed for two years.

Another defendant simply described by Thanh Nien News as a resident, Tran Trong Lam, received a three year sentence.

The remaining ten people convicted by the court were given suspended sentences of between 15 and 18 months.

Over 200 babies, and quite possibly more than 300, were, according to the Straits Times, sold to adoptive parents in the West for up to $550 each. The scam began in 2005 and was eventually discovered in 2008.

False documentation, which showed that the babies had been abandoned and were therefore eligible for adoption, was produced by those operating the scam. In reality many of the babies had been given up by young unwed mothers, who were offered free food and shelter at the welfare centers in return for handing over the infants. Other babies came from families suffering from terrible poverty.

One of the defendants in the trial, Vu Dinh Ky, who faked documents for 14 children and received $1,593 for doing so, said that “it was just to help the babies”.

In April 2008 the U.S. embassy in Vietnam's capital Hanoi reported that Vietnamese officials were failing to sufficiently monitor the country's adoption system. That failure was leading to a growth in corruption, fraud and baby-selling. Hospitals were selling babies when the mothers could not pay their bills and in one instance a grandmother gave her grandchild away without the knowledge of the child's mother.

It was three months after the report from the U.S. embassy came out, in July 2008, that police made the first arrests in connection with the scam whose perpetrators have now been dealt with by the court in Nam Dinh.

A bilateral adoption agreement between Vietnam and the U.S. is no longer in place. Whilst the Straits Times reports that the agreement has not been renewed since it expired in September, it is not clear if that is September 2008 or 2009, Asia One says the agreement was suspended by Vietnam after the U.S. embassy produced its report.


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