Saturday, January 21, 2012

Adoption ring with Irish connection under investigation by Mexican strike force

Prospective parents could "rent" children on a trial basis for $40 a day

Guadalajara, Jalisco -- Federal prosecutors here are investigating a local ring which they say sold babies and children to Irish couples, ostensibly for legal adoption. The announcement was made this week by a spokesperson for the regional office of the Child Sex Crimes & Family Violence Unit of Mexico's Organized Crime Strike Force.

The investigation was launched January 9 after a woman preparing to hand over her two year old daughter was arrested. She led police to three other women who operated the ring, all of whom were taken into custody. A local law firm which served as the go-between between biological mothers and foreign couples is now said to be the primary focus of the ongoing criminal investigation.

Most of the couples seeking to adopt were Irish nationals residing in the town of Ajijic, a community of 15,000 about 45 minutes east of Guadalajara, popular with expatriates and long-term visitors. Sources indicate the ring may have been in business for several years.

Attorneys in the law firm of López López and Associates processed the adoption cases through a judge in the neighboring Pacific coast state of Colima, west of Jalisco state. Authorities want to know why the adoptions were not handled locally, in the nearby capital of Guadalajara. Adoption laws vary state by state in Mexico, and they're considerably more stringent in Jalisco than in Colima.

Investigators searched the homes of nine biological mothers, and found evidence of cash payments as well as copies of birth certificates. The mothers have been detained pending further developments in the case. Ten children are in government custody, four of whom are said to bear signs of possible sexual abuse. All of the children are between two months and two years of age.

The mothers were paid 1,200 pesos per week, or about $370 USD per month, until they gave birth. They also received expense money for medical care and vitamins, according to prosecutors. López López solicited mothers wanting to surrender their children by placing ads in local newspapers. The law firm even "rented" children to prospective parents to determine compatibility, at the rate of 500 pesos ($40 USD) per day. Cash receipts seized during a search of the firm suggest that rent payments averaged about $750 USD for a 10 day to two week trial period.

Fifteen foreign residents of Ajijic, all of them Irish, have given formal statements to police as required by Mexican law. Prosecutors emphasized that they have not yet determined whether the couples were acting in good faith and believed that the adoptions were legitimate. The Irish embassy in Mexico City is assisting the couples with consular advice.

Embassy officials say that since June 2011 they have issued five public warnings to Irish nationals in Mexico advising them to avoid any type of private adoption contract, whether with individuals or business entities. But it appears that the couples questioned by police in this case ignored that advice.

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