Police in the Indonesian city of Surabaya arrested four people this week for their involvement in a baby-selling ring that had been operating through an Instagram account — with an official sounding name that translates to Family Welfare Institution (LKK) — for the last three months.
The Instagram account, which has not yet been deactivated and remains publicly accessible as of the time of writing, is truly a disturbing sight. It features images of young women and their babies that the operators was allegedly attempting to connect with potential buyers.
The images of the babies and some of the women are darkened to obfuscate their identities, while in many of the account’s early photos the women who had supposedly given up their babies for sale are wearing masks.
Some of the other Instagram posts are of Whatsapp screenshots between the operator and potential clients in a bid to prove the authenticity of their services.
While the Instagram account may still be up, police believe they have apprehended most of the people behind the human trafficking scheme. On Tuesday, they announced that, after a week-long investigation, they had arrested four people involved in the case.
One of the suspects arrested is the man who allegedly operated the LKK Instagram account, 29-year-old Alton Phinandita Prianto from Sidoarjo. Another was a 22-year-old Surabaya resident identified Lariza Anggraini who allegedly worked with Prianto to sell her 11-month-old child.
Police also arrested a 66-year-old midwife in Bali named Ni Ketut Sukarwati, who allegedly acted as another intermediary, and 36-year-old Ni Nyoman Sirat, who allegedly purchased Lariza’s baby.
According to Surabaya Police Criminal Investigations Head Sudamiran, the case came to the attention of authorities after Prianto posted to the LKK Instagram page about his desire to help Lariza sell her 11-month-old baby.
Police investigated the post and learned about Prianto’s and Lariza plan to sell him her baby. Later, the two went to Bali to meet Ni Ketut Sukarwati, who is also a midwife, to facilitate the sale of the baby. Police say Ni Nyoman Sirat then paid IDR 15 million (US$ 980) to complete the adoption.
After she was arrested, police say Lariza told them she felt she had no choice but to sell the baby, which was her third child, to somebody else because she desperately needed money for her family’s living expenses and because of school fees for her first child. She also told authorities that all three of her children were the result of a nikah siri, a type of unregistered ceremonial marriage that is not legally recognized.
Authorities say all of Lariza’s children will now be put in the custody of her grandmother.
In addition to the evidence from social media, police secured evidence in the form of adoption statements, two mobile units, IDR 4.5 million in cash and birth certificates.
The four suspects will be charged under Indonesia’s child protection laws and could each face a maximum sentence of up to 15 years imprisonment.
Investigator Sudamiran said they were still investigating Prianto’s operation and suspect that he facilitated the sale of two other babies in the last three months, one of which has been secured and one of which police were still trying to locate. He said that they were also looking for one more suspect believed to have acted as an intermediary that told women about Prianto’s services.
Amazingly, authorities say Prianto had actually done a family welfare education program and had gotten into human trafficking after first acting as a crisis consultant for families. He allegedly told police that even though he knew what he was doing was illegal, he felt he was helping desperate women who would otherwise abort their babies.