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Vietnam Adoption Ring Sentenced

March 31, 2000 GMT

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) _ A court in the northern province of Ninh Binh convicted and sentenced 12 people for their roles in selling 174 Vietnamese children for foreign adoption, a court official said Friday.

The children were given false documents and sent abroad for adoption, mainly by French and Belgian couples who paid from $1,000 to $1,500.

The alleged leader of the ring, a senior official in the provincial Justice Department, Vu Tien Manh, received a 4 1/2-year jail sentence, while the other defendants were sentenced to lesser terms and fines.

Manh was convicted in a three-day trial that ended Thursday, said Presiding Judge Hua Dang Dung.

Dung said Manh and his associates solicited children from unwed women and desperate families. Manh falsified documents for 174 children who were then sold for foreign adoption from 1992 until the ring was uncovered in 1998.

The adoptive parents were told that the children had been abandoned. Ring members confessed to charging $1,000 to $1,500 per child, Dung said.

The court ordered the defendants to pay fines of $27,000, Dung said.

The defendants have 15 days to appeal their sentences.