Peru’s ex-police chief and several others have been arrested after they were found to be allegedly involved in a baby trafficking ring, the public prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday, October 6.
According to a report by the BBC, the accused former police chief, Raul Becerra, was part of a gang which authorities termed the Soulless Human Traffickers. The said gang preyed on poor pregnant women and cajoled them into selling their babes, a statement by the prosecutor’s office said.
During a series of raids that police carried out in the southern city of Arequipa, 14 people — including Becerra — were arrested. According to the report, a pediatrician and a gynecologist were also part of the criminal group, along with three women who allegedly “fished for pregnant women by pretending to offer illegal abortions,” per the BBC. Under Peruvian law, abortion is only allowed if a woman’s physical or mental health is at risk.
Becerra’s role in the gang was not suggested by the police but his partner, Cintia Tello, is suspected to be the leader of the trafficking ring, the report detailed.
Per the New York Times, authorities said that the babies were sold for 4,000 Peruvian soles ($1,200). Officials also seized nearly $30,000 in cash, two vehicles, a large number of documents and cellphones from the gang members. The report further detailed that it is still not clear how many children have been trafficked by the group and who are the buyers.
The Times report quoted Jorge Chavez Cotrina — the coordinating prosecutor for the state attorney’s office in Lima specializing in organized crime — and stated her as saying that the gang likely targeted poor women who were “in desperate straits.”
“Being in an economic crisis, these women are more easily convinced.”
Public prosecutor Rosmery Mendoza Palomino took to Twitter and posted a video, saying that the investigation into the group’s criminal activities began in May. She added that the operation has been 100 percent successful after the arrest of all the 14 gang members.
Peru baby trafficking ring: Ex-police chief held https://t.co/Kwp20H4fqO— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) November 7, 2018
The BBC report further added that the”police are still investigating whether the children were sold to foreign couples looking to adopt or to organ trafficking gangs.”
Per Reuters, Becerra and Tello could not be reached for a comment. The report explained that Becerra was appointed as the former director of the country’s national police in 2010 when former president Alan Garcia’s government was in office.
The former chief served in the force for about a year but was replaced in October 2011 after one of his subordinates came out with accusations of sexual harassment against him, per a local Peruvian newspaper, El Comercio. Becerra, however, denied the accusations.