Australian parents have finally been reunited with their surrogate babies after the fertility scandal that erupted in a clinic in Greece last August.
The ordeal began when a fertility clinic in Crete, Greece was abruptly shut down, triggering a police raid and leaving newborns under police guard.
Australian parents were prevented from seeing their infants, but this week they successfully secured their surrogate babies’ Australian citizenship and brought them home from a hospital on Crete, where they were kept after the scandal erupted in the fertility clinic.
Greece’s judicial oversight of IVF programs provided it with a good reputation for surrogacy programs. This reputation led many families from Australia to follow through with surrogacy and search for clinics in Greece.
One of the most decorated of fertility clinics in Europe was the Mediterranean Fertility Institute (MFI), located on Crete.
Last August, Greek authorities shut down MFI and pressed charges against its founding member and seven staff which include charges of human trafficking, illegal adoption, and forgery.
Investigators say that women from countries like Ukraine, Romania, and Georgia were coerced from MFI into serving as surrogate mothers or egg donors, subjecting them to surveillance. These women became targets of intermediaries who received a commission of five thousand euros for each recruitment.
Along with the exploitation of these women, the clinic is also accused of illegal adoptions and fake IVF treatments.
Authorities are now investigating four hundred cases related to fraud and personal injury resulting from IVF procedures. Approximately one hundred and fifty Australian families suffered, and some continue to be affected.
To achieve their goals, members of the organization committed a variety of criminal acts. The group forged documents to obtain judicial decisions for individuals who did not meet legal requirements and collaborated with clinics, medical laboratories, and doctors to falsify egg retrieval records and medical documents.
Births were falsely declared as adoptions in cases in which the interested parties were from countries where surrogacy is prohibited. The organization also acted as a middleman in illegal infant adoptions for monetary gain and deceived women by falsely claiming they had undergone embryo transfer procedures.
The head of the organization was a seventy-three-year-old Greek physician. The doctor corroborated and oversaw the legality of the surrogacy programs along with advising other members on how to conduct the illegal procedures.
Through the profits of this organization, locations were rented on Crete for pregnant women who needed temporary housing. Along with the doctor, a forty-one-year-old assistant embryologist was involved in egg retrievals and embryo transfers.
The illegal activities of the organization created a profit of over €120,000. The police raid on many residences brought forth various documents, both bureaucratic and personal, that led to a greater understanding of the group’s activities. Amongst the seized items, prepaid cards, a small amount of cocaine, and notes of payment to trafficking victims were discovered.