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Illegal adoption ring babies return home

MEXICAN authorities have returned all but one baby involved in an apparent illegal adoption ring providing children to Irish couples, the women's lawyers said.

Attorney Yuri Marquez said Jalisco state authorities returned 10 of the 11 babies to their families last week.

The children had been in the custody of the state's protective services since January, when prosecutors opened an investigation after detaining a 21-year-old woman who was accused of "renting" one of her children.

Prosecutors are still running DNA tests on the remaining baby to confirm who her mother is, Marquez said.

The state restored custody to the parents after determining the mothers were tricked into believing their babies were being photographed for an anti-abortion ad campaign, while in reality the children were being shown to Irish couples looking to adopt.

"The judge was able to see that far from being members of organised crime they are victims, they were tricked," Marquez said.

Federal prosecutors took over the case, but would not comment on the status of the charges.

Marquez said seven people are still in federal custody, among them two women who the mothers said scoured a poor neighbourhood in the outskirts of the western city of Guadalajara looking for babies.

The 21-year-old woman first detained in the case and the grandmother of another baby, who was accused of knowingly taking part in the scheme, were released from prison six weeks ago for lack of evidence, Marquez revealed.

Police are also looking for at least two lawyers with the Guadalajara law firm of Lopez Lopez y Asociados who were allegedly processing the adoptions in neighbouring Colima state.

The mothers said they signed contracts with a law firm to allow their children to be photographed in different places in Jalisco state for advertising purposes.

They told investigators that the babies were taken for up to 15 days at a time and that they received 500 pesos (¤29) a day as payment.