Police in Peru say they have busted a suspected baby trafficking ring in the southern city of Arequipa.
Among the 14 people arrested in early morning raids is the former head of Peru’s national police force, Gen Raúl Becerra. He has not yet commented.
Police suspect his partner of being the ringleader of the gang which convinced poor women to hand over their babies and then sold them.
A five-month-old baby was rescued as part of the raids, officials said.
Police said 500 officers took part in simultaneous raids on 18 properties in the industrial city, starting at 03:00 local time (08:00 GMT) on Tuesday.
Read more about child trafficking:
- Indonesia arrests four for ‘selling babies on Instagram’
- German couple jailed for selling son to paedophiles on dark net
- India couple held for selling newborns
One of the properties searched was that of Gen Becerra, whom police suspect of being a key accomplice in the criminal scheme allegedly led by his 32-year-old partner, Cinthia Tello.
Gen Becerra, 61, led Peru’s national police force from 2010 until his retirement in 2011. Neighbours said Ms Tello ran local beauty contests and organised public events.
Investigators say the gang looked for poor pregnant women who were considering having abortions because they felt they could not afford to bring up a child.
The gang then allegedly offered the women enough money to convince them to carry to term and would then sell their babies at huge profit.
Investigators allege the babies were sold for 4,000 Peruvian soles ($1,187; £900). Police are still investigating whether the children were sold to foreign couples looking to adopt or to organ trafficking gangs.
A gynaecologist and a paediatrician are among those arrested, as well as three women who allegedly “fished” for pregnant women by pretending to offer illegal abortions.
Abortion is currently only allowed in Peru when a woman’s physical or mental health is at risk.
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