A total of 39 charges of human trafficking were added to the indictment against the alleged baby peddler Letitia van den Berg.
Sonia Leithgöb filed a complaint against Van den Berg in May last year after she allegedly made a misrepresentation as a private social worker to Leithgöb and her husband regarding the adoption of a baby.
She was initially only charged with fraud and theft.
Leithgöb joined AfriForum’s private prosecution unit November approached last year because she was concerned about a lack of communication from the South African Police Service in the matter.
With the help of the unit, this led to the police identifying dozens more victims of the alleged scam. The human trafficking charges followed.
Van den Berg allegedly presented services as an adoption social worker, and asked prospective adoptive parents who are unable to have children, money for various services in the process of adopting a child.
It is alleged that the accused did this when in fact there was no child to adopt or a child was offered to the hopeful parents, despite the biological mother not giving consent for adoption.
These violations apparently took place in 2014.
In May last year, Adv. Gerrie Nel, head of the private prosecution unit, advised the investigating officer in a letter about the serious nature of the alleged offences.
“We are concerned that more babies have been sold under similar conditions as the complainant had to endure. The generality of such actions does give rise to serious consideration that the suspect’s alleged behavior can be compared to and fall within the scope of human trafficking,” wrote Nel.
“Furthermore, it seems that the suspect continues with her cunning manipulation because of the vulnerability of childless people. Decisive investigation and action by the police and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is essential to deal with what appears to be a habitual fraudster or trafficker of babies.”
Barry Bateman, spokesperson for the private prosecution unit, says Van den Berg exploited the vulnerability of men and women who would like to be called mother and father.
“It is alleged that the prospective parents were shown photographs of a child they hoped and prayed they would one day adopt. Meanwhile, the same child was promised to another couple, who were shown the same photos and who eventually adopted that child,” says Bateman.
Bateman says it is alleged that in at least one case Van den Berg told a couple that the biological mother and child died during childbirth.
“Prospective parents would prepare baby rooms and buy clothes for their adopted children, only to be let down by Van den Berg with lies and further deception. This incredible cruelty earned Van den Berg hundreds of thousands of rand in fees.”
The private prosecution unit thanks the police and the NPA for giving this case the attention it deserves.
“The unit will continue to monitor it to ensure that justice is done.”
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