The National Police of Ukraine last week raided a private reproductive clinic in Kiev that has allegedly been “selling newborns” to China for “a long time,” according to a government official.
The deputy head of Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, Anton Herashchenko, published details of the raid in a Facebook post on Sunday, saying that police “stopped the criminal activity of an international, transnational group” that is now charged with human trafficking.
Herashchenko described the criminal operation—which was allegedly led by the head of the clinic, her son, two Ukrainians, and three Chinese nationals—as “a supermarket for the sale of newborns.”
Members of the criminal group found women in Ukraine to register “fictitious marriages with foreigners and participate in surrogacy programs” in order to facilitate the trafficking of the newborns abroad, Herashchenko said.
“For a monetary reward, the criminals provided services to solve organizational and legal issues related to the processes of fertilization, childbirth, paperwork, and legalization of the export of children outside Ukraine,” he wrote. “In other words, they sold children born to Ukrainian women to China for money.”
Newborns were sold for a price of roughly $50,000, which covered the cost of artificial insemination, organization of sham marriages, as well as legal support, according to the official. After the birth of the children, birth certificates were allegedly reissued to the names of the “buyers” and their fictitious wives—the surrogate mothers.
The National Police of Ukraine said in a statement on Facebook that law enforcement officers stopped the “illegal activities” of a group “engaged in the sale of babies abroad.”
“For a long time, abusers, under the guise of surrogate motherhood and through fictitious marriages with foreigners, transported newborn children not only throughout Ukraine but also to other countries.”
According to Herashchenko, the majority of the group’s clients were “Chinese citizens—single men of a certain orientation.” An investigation is underway into at least 140 Chinese citizens suspected of involvement in the purchasing of newborns in Ukraine, he said.
He added that it is not yet clear how many babies born in Ukraine have been smuggled out of the country.
“The police will make every effort to prevent this from happening again,” Herashchenko wrote.
The National Police of Ukraine reportedly conducted 11 raids in total, including at the homes of the suspects, their offices, clinic, as well as searches of their cars. Investigators found five newborns aged 2 to 6 weeks in private apartments across Kiev, which they believe were about to be trafficked, and took them to children’s hospitals.
Herashchenko said that surrogacy is not regulated in Ukraine, and is not expressly prohibited by law. If found guilty of human trafficking, the group will face up to 12 years in prison, he added.