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Defendants in baby trafficking case suspected of selling infants abroad for organ trade

Earlier, seven suspects in a case into trafficking infants born by surrogate mothers were arrested

MOSCOW, August 3. /TASS/. Investigators are probing suspects in a criminal case into trafficking children born by surrogate mothers for possible involvement in selling newborns abroad for organ trade, a source in the law enforcement agencies told TASS on Monday.

"Investigators will analyze the suspects’ actions. They are probing each of them for involvement in trafficking babies born by surrogate mothers abroad to sell their organs," the source said, giving no further details.

Moscow’s Basmanny district court earlier arrested seven suspects in a case into trafficking infants born by surrogate mothers. One more suspect was placed under house arrest. The key suspect, Konstantin Svitnev, was put on the federal wanted list. His attorney said the man was staying in Prague and was ready to return to Russia as soon as international air service was resumed.

Among those arrested are doctors, a translator and a director general of a surrogacy center. They are charged with human trafficking and attempted human trafficking.

A criminal case was opened in January by the Odintsovo Investigative department in the Moscow Region on charges of inflicting death by negligence (part 1, article 109 of the Russian Criminal Code) and human trafficking (clauses of part 2, article 127.1 of the Criminal Code). The case was opened after a body of a newborn boy had been found in one of the apartments in the Vniissok locality. Later, charges under article 127.1 of the Criminal Code were changed to graver ones, and the case was transferred to the central office of the Russian Investigative Committee.

According to preliminary data, a boy born by a surrogate mother in December of 2019 was under the nanny’s care in the apartment where three more infants, also born by surrogate mothers, were held. Investigators believe the newborns were staying there while their biological parents, foreign citizens, were taking care of the necessary paperwork, including documents required to take the children outside Russia. The investigators and forensic specialists in the course of the investigation searched the apartment, questioned the building’s residents, the directors and the manager of the surrogate motherhood law firm.

Preliminary expert findings showed that the baby had died from the sudden infant death syndrome. All the relevant documents, including licenses and surrogate motherhood contracts, were subpoenaed from the law firm which specialized in surrogate motherhood programs. The three newborns found at the apartment were taken to the children’s city hospital.

In June, five more infants aged from six days to six months were found in an apartment in Moscow. Two women were attending to the babies. Another criminal case into human trafficking was opened. Later, the police detained a Chinese national who was in the apartment with the babies. According to a source in the law enforcement agencies, these babies were born by surrogate mothers for Chinese nationals. The search of the apartment yielded documents in Russian and Chinese about IVF procedures and surrogate maternity agreements.

Later, these two cases were merged into one.