Baby trafficking gang sold infants for 25,000 euros
Bulgarian and Greek police have smashed an organised crime group that took babies from impoverished women — sometimes by force — and sold them to childless couples at premium prices.
(CNN, Herald Sun, Standart – 26/01/11; Sofia News Agency, The Sofia Echo, Dnevnik.bg, Mediapool, eKathimerini, Bulgarian Interior Ministry – 25/01/11)
The crime gang allegedly was selling newborn girls for 18,000-20,000 euros and boys for 25,000 euros. [Reuters]
A cross-border criminal ring, which trafficked pregnant women to Greece and sold their newborn babies there, has been smashed as part of an ongoing joint operation by Bulgarian and Greek police, authorities in the two Balkan nations said on Tuesday (January 25th).
A statement by Bulgaria’s interior ministry said a total of 11 people have been arrested thus far. Six of them, including the two alleged leaders of the organised crime group, as well as a doctor and a lawyer, were detained in the town of Lamia in central Greece. The other five were arrested in the eastern Bulgarian cities of Varna, Burgas and Yambol.
Acting as middlemen, they were responsible for finding pregnant Bulgarian women with little money who were willing to leave their babies for adoption following birth.
Citing Greek police sources, CNN and the Athens-based daily Kathimerini reported that a total of 12 suspects were detained, seven of them in Greece.
The joint operation, dubbed „Babies“, followed a several-month investigation, prompted by a tip-off from one of the 14 mainly ethnic Roma victims of the gang. The woman reportedly gave birth to a baby girl in Greece, but refused to leave it for adoption and the gang took the child from her by force. She managed to escape and return to Bulgaria.
„The scheme for the transfer of pregnant women to our southern neighbour was very well organised,“ the Bulgarian interior ministry statement said.
At least three of those arrested in Greece on Tuesday were women, aged between 33 and 39, and all of them of Bulgarian origin. They included one of the alleged leaders of the criminal network, her sister, who took care of the women until delivery, and the lawyer, who is married to a Greek and allegedly supplied the birth certificates and the faked adoption documents.
Before their departure for Greece, the victims were warned against visiting a doctor in Bulgaria to prevent their pregnancies from being registered.
Prior to the birth of their children, the expectant mothers were transported by car or were given money to buy a ticket to Greece. There, they were accommodated in lodgings in Lamia and Athens, where they left shortly after delivery.
The Greek clients, mostly childless couples, reportedly paid up to 25,000 euros for the newborn boys and about 15,000 euros for girls, according to the Bulgarian interior ministry. Depending on the terms of the deal, the mothers received between 100 euros and 1,500 euros, it explained, adding that some got nothing at all.