Police and prosecutors seized the former police general Raul Becerra in a dawn raid on his home on Tuesday along with his partner Cintia Tello. Both are accused of belonging to an organisation of more than a dozen people, including doctors, who took babies from poor women to sell.
A paediatrician and a gynaecologist were also arrested in what Peruvian police called a mega-raid in Peru’s second largest city Arequipa, in the south of the country. Hundreds of police officers and dozens of prosecutors raided 18 homes and businesses and rescued a five-month-old baby.
Retired police officer Raul Becerra was director of Peru’s national police force in 2010 but it is his partner Cintia Tello who is suspected of leading the trafficking ring, the police general, Walter Ortiz, told local media.
The gang included hospital workers who would identify mothers they could potentially exploit, according to the prosecutors’ investigation.
Among those arrested are two women who, it is alleged, secretly touted for backroom abortionists outside a hospital. They persuaded women considering abortions to accept money in exchange for their newborn babies, prosecutors said. Abortion is illegal in Peru unless the mother’s health is at risk. The cost of a baby was around 4,000 Peruvian soles ($1,187), prosecutors told local media.
Other members of the criminal organization cared for the babies in various locations while its leaders acted as intermediaries for potential clients, according to the investigation.
Prosecutors are investigating whether the babies were offered for illegal adoption by foreigners or, possibly, for organ trafficking.
All those arrested are being investigated for organised crime, people trafficking and crimes against life and health. They are likely to be detained for at least a week during a preliminary investigation during which time they are not obliged to enter a plea.