The former director of Peru’s National Police was among 14 people arrested early Tuesday morning in a series of dawn raids that rounded up alleged members of an international “soulless” baby trafficking ring.
According to authorities, the trafficking ring includes high-level civil servants and celebrities in the South American nation, with contacts around the world. The high-profile perpetrators have been dubbed “The Soulless Human Traffickers” by investigators due to the severity and heinousness of the crimes against children.
Authorities have not detailed the role Gen. Raúl Becerra played in the criminal international organization but the group is suspected of targeting poor pregnant women and convincing them to sell their newborn infants to powerful and wealthy people, the national police said in a statement.
The fate of these newborn infants remains clouded, with many in Peru fearing the worst.
It wasn’t all bad news, however. A 5-month-old baby girl was rescued from one of 18 luxury properties raided in the southern city of Arequipa on Tuesday morning. Officials targeted a combination of private residences, businesses and clinics.
#VIDEO | La fiscal Rosmery Mendoza Palomino informa del rescate de una bebé de 5 meses y la detención de 14 personas en un operativo dirigido en #Arequipa por el Ministerio Público, que permitió la desarticulación de una #OrganizaciónCriminal dedicada a la venta de menores. pic.twitter.com/wkv787cFLf
— Ministerio Público (@FiscaliaPeru) November 6, 2018
NPR reports: The 32-year-old woman, who is also known as Caroline Preciado, is a well-known model and events producer in Peru, El Comercio reported.
The local newspaper said the child was found in one of Preciado’s homes and that she had paid the baby’s mother 4,000 sols — nearly $1,200 — for the infant.
The child’s parents are among those arrested. A gynecologist and a pediatrician were also picked up in the sweep and are in custody, as well as a handful of women who acted as recruiters for pregnant women.
Prosecutor Rosmery Mendoza Palomino said in a Twitter video that the investigation into the group’s criminal activities began in May. She called the operation a “100 percent success,” adding that the 14 now in custody make up the entire gang.
“Police are still investigating whether the children were sold to foreign couples looking to adopt or to organ trafficking gangs,” the BBC reported.
Becerra, 61, led the national police force from 2010 to 2011, when he retired after being accused of sexually harassing a subordinate, according to Al Jazeera.