A baby-selling ring made up of doctors, nurses and welfare workers has gone on trial in northern Vietnam, accused of selling more than 250 children for adoption.

The 16 defendants are charged with "abuse of power and authority" and face up to 10 years in prison.

Among them are the head of two social welfare centers in Nam Dinh province as well as several doctors and nurses at village clinics.

They allegedly solicited infants from unmarried mothers and desperately poor families and falsified documents claiming the babies had been abandoned at village clinics.

This made them eligible for adoption.

It is alleged the ring sent 266 babies for foreign adoption between 2005 and July 2008 — although the nationality of the adoptive parents is not known.

The defendants are said to have earned up to $550 each.

Vietnamand the U.S., one of the country's largest recipients of children for adoption, have yet to renew an adoption agreement which expired in September.

In April last year, the U.S. embassy said in a report 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 could not pay their bills, and a grandmother giving away her grandchild without telling the child's mother.

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