KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia >> A Malaysian court sentenced a doctor and his assistant to a year in jail for selling a newborn boy in what a government lawyer said Thursday was a rare successful prosecution over baby trafficking.
A court in southern Johor state found Dr. Robert Luk and his assistant Suleiman Salim guilty Wednesday of selling the baby to a couple for 10,000 ringgit ($3,200) in 2005, said prosecutor Dzul Iswari Mohamad Jaafar.
Luk, working at a private obstetrics clinic, was accused of altering the birth certificate of the boy, born to a poor woman who wanted to give him up for adoption. Suleiman acted as a middleman, taking the baby from the woman, Dzul Iswari said.
The offense — unlawful transfer of control of a child — carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a fine. The judge postponed the execution of the sentence to allow the two men to appeal.
Dzul Iswari told The Associated Press that the couple who bought the baby was not charged, nor was the mother. The couple was not aware of the sale and believed they were adopting the baby legally, thinking that the money they paid was the fee to cover the boy’s mother’s medical bills, he said.
The mother was unaware that her son was sold for money and believed he was being given up for adoption through proper channels, Dzul Iswari said. The couple and mother appeared as prosecution witnesses.
Several people have been arrested in recent years over the sale of babies.
But it was not immediately clear if any of the accused were ever convicted. Dzul Iswari said there had been no successful prosecutions until Wednesday’s verdict, as all other cases were pending.
“This has become the first such case,” he said.
Abdul Majid Hamzah, head of the prosecution division in the Attorney General’s chambers, said he recalls some successful prosecutions but could not give details.
The act under which the doctor and his assistant were charged came into effect in 2001.
Last year, Malaysian police rescued six babies and arrested 15 people allegedly involved in a child trafficking ring, which paid women to get pregnant for childless couples. It was not immediately clear whether any of the suspects were prosecuted.
The Kuala Lumpur-based group allegedly paid Malaysian, Indonesian, Filipino and Vietnamese immigrant women 5,000 ringgit ($1,600) for each baby delivered.
The babies were sold on for 20,000 ringgit each ($6,500). The gang is believed to have been operating for more than five years.