exposing the dark side of adoption
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Vietnamese doctors 'sold' babies for overseas adoptions

Sixteen Vietnamese doctors, nurses and officials sold 266 babies for overseas adoptions, a court heard on Tuesday.

The defendants from a number of clinics and social welfare centres in the northern province of Nam Dinh allegedly solicited the infants from unmarried mothers and impoverished families.

To make the children eligible for adoption, and the process legal, they ring forged documents so it appeared the children had been abandoned at village clinics, it was claimed.

The accused – the directors of two social welfare centres, doctors, nurses and district officials – face jail terms of between five and ten years if convicted of "abuse of power and authority".

The babies were allegedly sent for foreign adoption by the ring between 2005 and July 2008, when the racket was busted just three months after damming report into the trade.

Each member of the group allegedly illegally earned between £170 and £340 for their part in the scheme. Most of the babies ended up in France, Italy and the US, according to court officials.

Couples in the US had adopted the most Vietnamese children before a bilateral agreement expired a year ago.

In 2007, 828 Vietnamese infants were adopted by parents in the US, including the fourth child of movie stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, though there is no suggestion of impropriety.

That tally of adoptions would have been surpassed last year had the agreement not lapsed.

Each year around ten Vietnamese babies had been adopted by couples from Britain.

The US-Vietnamese adoption agreement expired after an exhaustive investigation uncovered widespread irregularities. The US embassy in Hanoi revealed Vietnamese authorities' failure to police the system.

Rampant abuses included flourishing sales of babies, and fraud and corruption perpetrated by care officials and orphanage directors.

Hospitals sold babies whose mothers could not afford the medical bills for delivery, brokers scoured villages for infants, and in one case a grandmother sent a baby girl for her parents' knowledge.

2009 Sep 22