Two elderly nuns in Spain are under investigation for allegedly forcing women to give up their babies and then putting the infants up for adoption.
Police said a police probe with the code name “Baby” uncovered the actions of Sisters Carmen Longatela Latas, 82 and Carmen Vazquez Lamela, 88. Investigators say the nuns, who were indicted this week, are responsible for kidnapping and selling 13 babies from 2005 to 2011.
Investigators are exploring all angles, including the possibility that the nuns were working with criminal gangs to force women to give up their children.
The nuns are members of the Hogar Madre Encarnación, a Franciscan convent in Lugo, Spain. The convent had a contract with the Galician regional government to care for low-income mothers, many of them immigrants or drug addicts, who couldn’t look after their own children.
The convent’s former mother superior is also being probed, along with 19 others, including civil servants and social workers.
According to Premier, a Brazilian woman, Cilene Domingues Lourenco, stayed at the convent after giving birth and claimed she was forced to sign a consent form to give up her child.
Lourenco later tried to kill herself by jumping out of an eighth floor hospital. She survived but became a paraplegic. She told police the nuns told her that her child would be better off with another family, according to the Times in UK.
“The nuns invented things like the women were too poor to look after their children or were pressured or tricked them,” said Amelia Saavedra, a lawyer for the victims.
The nuns deny any wrongdoing.
The stealing of babies was prevalent during the era of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco, when about 300,000 children were allegedly taken from their parents as retribution for their political beliefs. Even after Franco died 40 years ago, doctors, nurses and nuns allegedly colluded with criminal gangs to run a baby trafficking business, according to a series of lawsuits filed the past few years.