'THE BABY STEALERS'

Mama Lucy Hospital CEO, admin officer held in baby sale probe

Police followed a BBC expose of babies sold 'on order' in government-run hospitals,

In Summary

•  Police investigation has disclosed senior medical officers are involved in the smuggling of children.

• BBC's 'Africa Eye' programme exposed the sales racket after a one-year investigation with reporters posing undercover. 

Mama Lucy Hospital.
MAMA LUCY: Mama Lucy Hospital.
Image: MAUREEN KINYANJUI

Mama Lucy Hospital's CEO, an administrative officer and a clinical social worker exposed by the BBC have been arrested in connection with child trafficking.

Social worker Makallah Fred Leparan was exposed negotiating with an undercover journalist in a well-planned plot to sell a child abandoned at Mama Lucy Hospital.

Laparan was arraigned on Wednesday.

He appeared alongside Mama Lucy Hospital CEO Emma Mutio and administrative officer Regina Musembi.

The three did not plead to any charges as DCI sought 10 days to detain them while investigations are concluded.

Investigating officer Wanga Masaki told senior principal magistrate  Bernard Ochoi the two officials were arrested following information obtained from Leparan.

“They are believed to have aided Leparan in the commission of the said crime,” Masaki told the court.

The court heard that in the BBC broadcast, Leparan is seen negotiating with an undercover journalist in a plot to sell a child who had been abandoned at Mama Lucy Hospital.

“The respondent is seen receiving a substantial sum of money after handing over three abandoned children to the journalist.

"The three children were later found at Imani Rehabilitation Agency,” he told the court. DCI said it has reason to believe there is a well-organised gang operating in Kenya; its other members are yet to be established.

“The respondents hold crucial information and have the potential of interfering with the investigation if released on bond… Their fixed places of abode are not known to DCI and therefore they are potentially flight risks if released before the investigations are completed,” Masaki said.

Ochoi will rule on Thursday whether to detain the suspects.

In the meantime, they have been remanded at Kileleshwa police station.

In a statement on Wednesday, Police IG Hillary Mutyambai said it's possible more people will be arrested.

The arraignment comes days after the BBC 'Africa Eye' in a documentary ‘The Baby Stealers’ exposed a child trafficking syndicate in the capital.

The team unearthed child trafficking in street clinics and reported that babies 'on order' are stolen at a major government-run hospital.

Mutyambai said a police investigation revealed that senior medical officers are deeply involved in smuggling babies.

"During an operation by police to unearth the organised crime, police officers also noted with a lot of concern that local public hospitals and children homes within Nairobi are involved," he said.

The IG has directed all county police commanders to work closely with children's officers to probe issues relating to child trafficking. He said public and private hospitals and children's homes are on their radar.

Mutyambai has called on the public to report any suspicious activities to the authorities.

He assured utmost confidentiality to those sharing information with the police.

"We appeal to the public to volunteer information to the police and local administration officers on any suspicious activity relating to crimes,  and more so on child trafficking," the IG said.

Labour and Social protection CS Simon Chelugui on Tuesday condemned the theft of babies and said those involved will face the full force of the law.

The CS sought to assure Kenyans that health facilities across the country are secure and safe for both mothers and their children.

(Edited by V. Graham)