Couples devastated by adoption scam

Eleven Irish couples caught up in an alleged adoption scam in Mexico have been left devastated by the affair, they said tonight.

While the lawyer at the centre of the baby trafficking plot remains on the run, the families who returned home last weekend have insisted they believed they were acting legally.

Offices belonging to the Lopez Y Lopez firm in Guadalajara have been raided and documents seized and six employees detained by police.

Carlos Lopez, who claims to have arranged the adoption of up to 60 children from Mexico to Ireland since 2004, is wanted over the apparent trafficking racket.

The 11 Irish couples, in their 30s and 40s and mainly from Dublin, are said to have followed official rules to the letter and only remained in the country after the affair broke more than a week ago to give statements to authorities.

Carlos Montoya, a lawyer from Guadalajara, western Mexico, acting for the couples, said they were carrying all relevant documentation needed to complete legal adoption in Mexico.

“Naturally all the families are devastated with the turn of events,” he said on their behalf.

“All the families believed they were involved in public, Hague-compliant, legal adoptions. All families had valid Declarations to Adopt from Mexico as issued by the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI).”

Mr Montoya added: “I can tell you this much: they are innocent. They tried to adopt children legally.

“They did not know what was going on, they had no suspicions of wrongdoing and they called the Irish embassy when police started asking questions.”

A US-based adoption agency is believed to have put the couples in contact with Lopez, who has claimed to have acted as a go-between for 20 years with families from around the world.

The scam involved mothers of babies being paid about 755 US dollars (€5750) for their youngsters to take part in photoshoots for a number of days.

Instead they were being groomed for trafficking in illegal adoption.

Prosecutors believe childless couples seeking a youngster from Mexico, who went through rigorous checks under the Hague Convention, were charged expenses to cover medical bills, lawyers’ rates, nanny services and expensive flat charges, up to 30,000 US dollars (€23,000).

Reports in Mexico have said that Irish couples were advised to stay in the coastal resort town of Ajijic and wait for the child to be brought and remain there for days or weeks to bond.

Since the scandal broke earlier this month when a Mexican mother was reportedly stopped from selling her baby, 10 youngsters have been placed in care.

The Irish couples were advised to return to Ireland amid fears they could face blackmail.

The AAI has refused to comment on Irish couples unwittingly involved in an apparent trafficking racket, saying it does not discuss individual cases.

The agency held board meetings for several hours today to discuss the controversy.

Mr Montoya, based in Jalisco, has received copies of files built up over three years by the couples to secure adoption and certified by the AAI.

He was asked by the Irish embassy in Mexico to assist the couples.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the couples only remained in Mexico to give statements. No Irish people have been arrested.

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