A widespread investigation into all Mother Teresa charity-run shelters was underway in India on Tuesday after the stunning arrest of a shelter worker and a nun who allegedly sold a baby.
India’s government ordered the immediate inspection of every shelter run by the Missionaries of Charity on Monday amid claims of child theft lodged against Amima Indwar, who worked at a shelter for unwed mothers in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state in eastern India.
Indwar and the nun, identified by local press as Sister Koncila, were arrested July 5.
Police said earlier this month an Indian couple claimed they paid Indwar $1,760 for a newborn baby -- but the charity worker took the baby boy back and kept the money.
Police officer Aman Kumar told reporters a baby was born May 1 to a resident at the shelter and was handed to the Indian couple in Rachi on May 14.
The couple told police Indwar called them on July 1 and asked them to visit the shelter with the baby to complete some formalities.
Rupa Verma, chairperson of an organization run by the state government for children's welfare, said Indwar took the child away when the couple arrived.
Police said three other complaints against Indwar are being investigated.
The Times of India reported Indwar confessed to selling four babies, of whom three were found earlier. A fourth, a 6-month-old boy, was reportedly discovered Sunday.
“We are getting many leads, but we cannot divulge them as of now,” police officer Anish Gupta told the Times of India. “We are working to verify them.”
Police said they have moved the 12 pregnant women at the shelter to a government-run home for care. The move apparently was made to avoid any similar situations at sister shelters.
The charity has denied any children were sold.
After the July 5 arrests, Missionaries of Charity spokeswoman Sunita Kumar said the charity was investigating the claims and “there was no question of selling any child as the Missionaries of Charity had stopped giving children for adoption three years ago.”
She declined to comment on the government’s investigation on Monday.
Mother Teresa started the Missionaries of Charity order in Kolkata in 1950 and the order later set up hundreds of shelters to care for some of the world's neediest, people she described as "the poorest of the poor."
She received the Nobel Peace Prize for her charitable work in 1979 and Pope Francis declared her a saint last year, two decades after her death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.