Spanish authorities are launching an investigation into more than 800 baby trafficking cases that stretched over seven decades.

Cándido Conde-Pumpido, Spain's attorney general, said Friday that prosecutors are investigating 849 cases of newborn children stolen from their mothers and sold to other families for profit. 

Cone-Pumpido added that 162 cases had already been referred for trial and only 38 have been dropped for a lack of evidence.

He said "a great many Spaniards" had been affected by the alleged thefts, which took place "over a prolonged period of time."

It is well documented that babies were taken from women who had supported the defeated Republican side after Spain's 1936-39 Civil War. However, some of the baby trafficking cases are as recent as the mid-1990s.

Conde-Pumpido's office was alerted to the cases by an association of people searching for lost children or parents.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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