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Vietnam jails 3 for child trafficking

HANOI, Vietnam -- A court in northern Vietnam sentenced three people to prison for trafficking children in a scheme that sold babies to a welfare center, an official said Friday.

The three were convicted of selling 12 infants to the deputy director of a social welfare center in Ninh Binh province for 130 million dong (US$7,600) between April 2006 and May 2008, when they were arrested, said presiding Judge Vu Duy Ton.

They had solicited infants from unwed mothers and those from desperate families, he said.

The deputy director of the social welfare center, To Van An, committed suicide by jumping in front of a car a month after the arrests.

Vu Quang Dat, former director of a social welfare center in Hoa Binh province, got seven years in prison while his two accomplices received three and five years after the one-day trial on Thursday, the judge said.

Twelve accomplices were handed suspended sentences from two years to two-and-a-half years on the same charges, he said.

Of the 12 babies sold to the center in Ninh Binh, six were adopted by citizens from the United States, France and Canada, five were transferred to the center in Hoa Binh, and one was returned to the family of an unwed mother, the judge said.

Vietnam and the United States, one of the Southeast Asian country's largest recipients of children for adoption, have yet to renew their bilateral adoption agreement that expired in September.

The U.S. Embassy said in a report in April last year that Vietnam had failed to police its adoption system, allowing corruption, fraud and baby-selling to flourish.

The report described brokers scouring villages for babies, hospitals selling the infants of mothers who cannot pay their bills, and a grandmother giving away her grandchild without telling the child's mother.

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