Eight people have been arrested in West Bengal in connection with a newborn trafficking racket that spanned across states. The state Crime Investigation Department said two private clinics in Baduria, North 24 Paraganas, smuggled newborn babies with the help of an NGO for the past three years. Three doctors were also involved in the racket.

The group targeted unmarried women and poor couples. They often resorted to stealing babies after telling the mother that she had delivered a stillborn, officials said. During a raid on Monday night, investigators found three babies, two of them hidden in biscuit cartons, at Sohon Nursing Home, The Indian Express reported. The mother of the third baby was told that she had given birth to a stillborn baby.

Deputy Inspector General of the CID, BL Meena, said, those arrested have been identified as Satyajit Sinha, Nazma Bibi, Baikbul Baidya alias Baikbul Sheikh, Utpala Byapari, Prabhat Sarkar, Jhantu Biswas and Asadur Jaman. They have been accused of kidnapping, trafficking, criminal conspiracy and cheating.

The newspaper reported that couples were provided babies according to gender and complexion preferences. While male babies were sold at around Rs 2 lakh, females were sold for half the price. “Fair-skinned babies sold at higher rates. This gang has sold approximately 25 to 30 newborns till date, but the exact number is yet to be ascertained,” an official told the daily. While four of the accused have been sent to police custody for 14 days, the CID is looking for the couples who bought the babies.