Dozens of people go on trial Monday for suspected roles in a network that recruited desperate pregnant women from Bulgaria, brought them to France and sold their newborns to childless couples.
The trial in Bobigny, north of Paris, centers on 22 babies who were sold between 2003 and 2005, mostly to couples within France's Roma, or Gypsy, communities, for between Ђ3,000 and Ђ7,000 (US$3,900 and US$9,100), prosecutors say.
The babies' mothers were promised large sums of money to come to France, give birth and hand their babies over to other couples. Usually they only received a tiny fraction of the money, and often the network forced them to become prostitutes or beggars after giving birth, prosecutors say.
Most of the couples could not have children, and none were accused of mistreating their babies. When the network was discovered, the babies were initially placed in foster care, though after several months they were returned to the families that bought them. Some couples have begun proceedings to legally adopt the children, reports AP.
Fifty-six people are on trial in the case, most of them Bulgarians. Four are suspected organizers of the ring who are already jailed in the affair, while seven others are being sought through international arrest warrants.
Birth mothers and couples who bought babies are also on trial, and they face between six months and three years in prison if convicted.