Mumbai: The Trombay police have busted a newborn trafficking racket and arrested six women, including the mother of the newborn who was about to be sold. The main accused was identified as Julia Lawrence Fernandez, who runs a non-profit adoption placement agency, Aham Foundation, located in Mahatma Phule Nagar, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan Marg, Worli. Her other accomplices are Gayrobi Usman Sheikh, Gulbhasha Matin Sheikh, Sairabanu Sheikh and Rina Nitin Chavan. Notably, this isn't the first case against Fernandez, who has been named in similar offences since 2017.
Cops received tip-off about trafficking
The racket came under the police radar after the cops received a tip-off about the trafficking of an infant. To catch the culprits red-handed, the police approached Sairabanu, who ran a clinic in Govandi's Rafiq Nagar without any medical expertise or certification, while posing as parents wishing for a child. The accused quoted a price of Rs5 lakh for a girl child while saying that a boy child would cost more.
Sairabanu's clinic was the centrepoint of this racket's activities. Fernandez had tied up with Sairabanu and used to send pregnant women to the latter for performing deliveries. From here on, they used to start the trafficking process while Rina acted as the mediator between the clients and Fernandez. Further probe revealed that Sairabanu had issued at least 100 birth certificates of 'natural birth' besides performing several illegal abortions. The civic body has now blacklisted the clinic.
Fernandez's other targets included women who approached clinics for abortion. Those who were not successful in terminating their pregnancy due to legal 'hassles', she would convince them to give birth. The accused would foot all birth-related expenses and take custody of the child with trafficking intent.
The police had also caught one Shabana Sheikh who had given her baby to the accused for selling. She told the police that she committed the offence as her husband has left her and also she is unemployed. Struggling to make ends meet, giving away the baby was her only way for survival, Sheikh added.
Talking about the case, a senior police official said, “Their area of operations began from in vitro fertilization (IVF) centres. The targets were women who failed in the IVF process and went through a roller-coaster of emotions. In such a scenario, the main accused gave them hope of buying the child. The targets fell into the trap, thinking it's yet another medium of adoption, but the other side of the story is quite dangerous.” Fernandez has several agents whose duty involves hunting for new mothers who are from economically weaker backgrounds. “Failing economical conditions force them to agree to the illegal agenda of the accused and give away their infants for chump change,” the cop added.
All the accused have been remanded to judicial custody till the next trial.
Main accused ran non-profit adoption placement agency
Another operated an illegal clinic in Govandi
She even issued birth certificates, performed illegal abortions
One of the accomplices acted as mediator between clients, racket
Main accused would foot birth-related bills of new mothers
She would then take child's custody with trafficking intent
Gang was busted after cops received a tip-off about a child to be sold