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Alleged Members of Baby Trafficking Ring on Crete Testify in Court

Judge's hammer.
Eight suspects for running a baby-trafficking ring on Crete, Greece, through an assisted reproduction unit, testified on Sunday. Credit: AMNA

Eight suspects who were apprehended on Friday for allegedly running a criminal surrogate mother and adoption ring on Crete through an assisted reproduction unit, testified on Sunday at the court in Chania in western Crete.

Four of them were remanded in custody early on Monday after testifying before two examining magistrates who are handling the case.

The marathon session before the magistrates had started at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning and ended at 3 a.m. in the early hours of Monday, according to AMNA.

Four suspects remanded in custody

The doctor who owned and managed the assisted reproduction unit, an embryologist employed there, the unit’s secretary and a Romanian woman acting as an intermediary for arranging the illegal adoptions were jailed on remand pending trial.

The unit’s midwife, a biologist and worker at a Chania clinic and foreign national also accused of acting as an intermediary for the adoptions, were released with conditions.

The eight suspects face charges of forming and joining a criminal organization to traffic people, acting as intermediaries in the illegal adoption of minors, violating laws on medically assisted reproduction, forgery, disrupting family order, fraud, bodily harm, and violating legislation on narcotics.

According to Greek media reports, four hundred couples and two hundred surrogates or egg donors have been exploited by the ring over a decade’s time.

Head of National Authority on Assisted Reproduction removed

In the aftermath of the arrests for the case made on Friday, Health Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis removed alternate professor of gynecology (University of Athens) Nikolaos Vrachnis as head of the National Authority on Assisted Reproduction, which is the body in charge of overseeing all assisted reproduction facilities in Greece and approving licensing.

Vrachnis had been reportedly summoned to testify without oath for breach of duty and bribery in the context of the investigation being conducted at the IVF unit of Chania.

According to the police file, the Chania-based Unit of Medically Assisted Reproduction and Bank of Cryogenic Maintenance is allegedly involved in the network of baby selling.

Baby-trafficking operation on Crete, Greece

As per Greek Police, the syndicate capitalized on the vulnerability of foreign women, manipulating them into coming to Greece to become egg donors and surrogate mothers.

In addition, the group, whose operations were thwarted by the Organized Crime Department of the General Regional Police Directorate of Crete, was allegedly engaged in human trafficking by orchestrating illicit baby adoptions, and perpetrating fraudulent schemes by offering counterfeit IVF treatments to unsuspecting patients.

The investigation suggests that the criminal ring typically reaped substantial gains from each surrogacy program with earnings varying between €70,000 and €100,000, or even €120,000 in certain cases.

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