A Kenyan hospital employee, Fred Leparan, who was caught in a BBC investigation attempting to sell a baby boy on the black market, has been convicted of child trafficking. Leparan worked at Nairobi Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital, where he accepted $2,050 (£1,600) to facilitate the sale of the baby boy who was under the hospital’s care.
Leparan’s arrest occurred in 2020 following a BBC Africa Eye investigation. He is being charged alongside another hospital employee, Selina Awour, who was arrested on child theft charges. Awuor, however, has been acquitted of child trafficking and found guilty of three counts of child neglect.
Both Leparan and Awuor are set to be sentenced by 26th September.
The BBC Africa Eye investigation began when a reporter approached Leparan posing as a potential buyer, having received information that the senior clinical social worker was involved in illegal child trafficking from the government-run hospital. A meeting was arranged at the hospital, during which Leparan, after only cursory questions about the reporter’s situation, agreed to sell the baby boy.
On the day scheduled for the transfer of the baby boy from the hospital to a government-run children’s home, along with two other children, Leparan was captured on camera falsifying the transfer paperwork. This manipulation was an attempt to deceive the home into expecting two children instead of three.
The BBC team ensured that all three children were delivered directly to the children’s home. However, Leparan was caught amending the paperwork, asserting that the child now belonged to him.
Despite the substantial evidence against him, the case against Leparan dragged on for more than two years. Leparan had the opportunity to retain a strong legal defence in Kenya but gave inconsistent and evasive testimony. He was forced to admit that he appeared in the undercover footage and later acknowledged that some of the words were his own.
Leparan even claimed not to recognise various parts of the hospital where he had worked for three years, despite footage shown in court depicting him secretly arranging the theft and transfer of the baby boy.
While the BBC investigation exposed the illegal sale of one child from Mama Lucy Hospital, a former employee who spoke to Africa Eye on condition of anonymity claimed to be aware of 12 missing children under the hospital’s care in just two months. The former employee cited corruption and the acceptance of bribes by staff as contributing factors to this issue.
Child trafficking is a significant problem in Kenya, driven by cultural stigmas surrounding infertility, adoption, and the lack of an official adoption process. Leparan’s hospital scheme represents just one facet of this complex problem.
The Africa Eye investigation also revealed traffickers arranging the purchase and sale of babies in illegal street clinics, as well as the brazen theft and sale of babies from vulnerable, homeless mothers living on city streets.