Indian authorities have arrested two key figures in child trafficking business as estimates say more and more kids are sold to foreign couples across the country.
Sashi Panja, the women and child development minister in the eastern state of West Bengal, said on Tuesday that police had arrested the heads of an adoption center who were suspected of selling at least 17 children to foreign couples.
Panja said raids were carried out in three charitable homes on Saturday night.
Police identified the suspects as Chandana Chakraborty, head of the Bimala Sishu Griha center, and her deputy Sonali Mondal, adding that the arrests were made at the weekend after a tip-off from the federal adoption agency.
"In the last two to three years, they have sold at least 17 children," a police officer said, adding, "We will try to contact the couples and are expecting more arrests in coming days."
The suspects had reportedly sold children aged between six months and 14 years to couples from Europe, America and Asia. They received fees ranging from $12,000 to $23,000 and the children had reportedly been taken out of India, the investigators said.
Sources said one of the children was reportedly sold to a French couple in 2015 for a fee of 1.5 million rupees ($23,000).
Officials said the charity was being closely watched since June 2016, when investigations revealed that all the children from one of the homes were relocated and records had discrepancies.
India retains a series of harsh rules for foreign adoptions while domestic adoptions are quite rare. Government statistics show that local couples adopted 3,011 children in India between April 2015 and March 2016, down from 3,988 in the previous period. India has an estimated population of 30 million orphans.