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Baby harvesting syndicate busted, they include 2 doctors, 4 nurses

BY: Emelia Ennin Abbey
Mr Frank Adu-Poku — EOCO boss
Mr Frank Adu-Poku — EOCO boss

A joint operation by the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) and the Ghana Medical and Dental Council (MDC) has led to the arrest of 11 people suspected to be involved in the harvesting of babies and human trafficking in some health facilities in the Greater Accra Region.

Those arrested comprise two medical doctors, four nurses, two mothers, two social welfare officers and a traditional birth attendant.

The operation also led to the rescue of two baby boys who are four months old and less than a month old who were offered for sale at GH¢30,000 and GH¢28,000 each to undercover investigators.

Suspects

The two doctors are Dr Hope Mensah Quashie of the 37 Military Hospital, who also owns the Susan Clinic, a private health facility at Lartebiokorshie in Accra, and Dr Noah Kofi Lartey, a medical practitioner with the Obstetrician and Gynaecology Department of the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, Ridge, who also operates a private hospital known as the Dangbe Community Hospital in Prampram.

The four suspected nurses are Sylvia Awuseh, John Adorey Effie, Angela Ametepe and Bernice Afor, all of whom work with Dr Quashie at his private hospital.

The traditional birth attendant, identified as Dede Gifty Anikpi of the Bethlehem Maternity Home at Santoe, a suburb of Kpone Katamanso, is also alleged to have referred one of the mothers whose babies were sold to the Susan Clinic.

The two social workers are Leonard Agbley and Doris Badu, both of the Tema General Hospital.

Withdrawal of licences

Meanwhile, the licences of the two doctors have been withdrawn by the MDC and the council has indicated that their names would be struck off from the register, if they are convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Briefing

Briefing journalists, the Executive Director of EOCO, Commissioner of Police Mr Frank Adu-Poku (retd), said the operation started in February 2020 and was still ongoing, as there were more accomplices who were being hunted for.

He said the operation was based on a hint from a taxi driver, who suspected that two women who had hired his services might have bought a baby from a health facility as a result of their conversation while they were in his vehicle.

Arrest

Mr Adu-Poku said following the tip-off from the taxi driver, a joint investigative team went undercover, leading to the arrest of Agbley, after he had agreed to sell a baby to some investigators for GH¢28,000.

Agbley is said to have led the team to the Tema General Hospital, where a woman, identified as Nancy Obaa Yaa, supplied the baby.

Obaa Yaa is currently on the run.

Further investigations showed that she was the brain behind the sale of the baby.

On January 4, 2021, the mother of the baby was arrested, together with Badu, who indicated that the baby was supplied by Dr Lartey for sale.

Dr Lartey was arrested on January 5, this year.

While the investigation was ongoing, the mother of the second baby boy was arrested on January 19, 2021. Her identity has been withheld by EOCO to facilitate its investigation.

Circumstances

Mr Adu-Poku said there was the possibility that the suspects in some cases might have deceived mothers, after the latter had been delivered of their babies, that the babies had died and used the opportunity to offer those babies for sale.

In other instances, he said, mothers who had become vulnerable because the men who impregnated them had refused to take responsibility were encouraged by the suspects to give out their babies for sale.

Public assurance

The EOCO Executive Director assured the public that the two agencies would continue to collaborate to protect public health and safety by preventing and detecting organised crimes.

He expressed his appreciation to the Ghana Police Service and other stakeholders for their cooperation, especially the public, by providing information leading to the arrest of the suspects.

Mr Adu-Poku urged the public to continue to provide timely information that could lead to the arrest of the others suspected to be involved in the illegal sale of babies.

He said there were arrangements to ensure that the taxi driver was rewarded, as he had provided credible information and helped to uncover crime.

Serious offences

The acting Registrar of the MDC, Dr Divine N. Banyubala, said the actions of the suspects were serious offences, and that in the case of the doctors, the council had withdrawn their licences, while other consequences of their acts would depend on the outcome of a court trial.

"The medical profession is an honourable, noble and learned profession and their names will be struck off our register if they go through trial and we have proof of conviction,” he said.

He expressed the hope that the arrest of the suspects would increase public confidence in the profession and the work of both institutions.