Authorities in Peru said Thursday they had busted an alleged baby trafficking ring that included the country’s former police chief.
Police arrested 14 people and carried out raids on 18 properties in the southern city of Arequipa, prosecutor Rosmery Palomino said in a video posted on Twitter.
They also rescued a five-month-old baby that was set to be sold for 4,000 Peruvian soles ($1,200).
The gang, which included doctors, sought out women who were seeking abortions to persuade them to carry their pregnancies to term so that they could sell their babies.
Civil registry officials who were part of the ring would then help carry out the necessary paperwork.
The swoop was the result of an investigation that began in May and involved extensive wiretapping.
The alleged ringleader was a model Cinthia Tello, whose partner, retired General Raul Becerra, was director of Peru’s National Police in 2010.
Tello, who was also a beauty pageant producer in Arequipa, “is the leader — she would receive babies in her house, before handing it over to the adopter,” prosecutor Miriam Hernandez told reporters.
Among those arrested were a gynecologist and a pediatrician, as well as three women whose job it was to contact pregnant women who were seeking abortions.
Peru has one of the strictest set of laws governing abortion in South America, with the procedure only legal in cases where a pregnancy presents a danger to the life of the mother.