A ring of illegal adoptions in Greece was dismantled
During the operation, eight members of the organization were arrested, including the two leaders
A criminal organization whose members were active in professional human trafficking through the "industrialization of births", exploiting women as egg donors or surrogate mothers, in illegal adoptions of babies as well as in defrauding patients with sham medical procedures, has been dismantled by the Department for Combating Organized Crime Crime of the General Regional Police Directorate of Crete.
According to an official information from the Hellenic Police, in order to dismantle the criminal organization, a large-scale police operation was carried out in the early hours of yesterday, Tuesday, August 8, 2023, in Crete, Athens and Thessaloniki, with the participation of police officers from the Organized Crime Department of Crete, Security Sub-Directorate of Chania, the Narcotics Sub-Directorate of Attica, the Organized Crime and Human Trafficking Sub-Directorate of Thessaloniki, the Security Sub-Directorate of Aikaterini, the Digital Evidence Department of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Hellenic Police Headquarters, with the assistance of the SDOE.
During the operation, according to the announcement, eight members of the organization were arrested, including the two leaders, as well as one person, a non-member, while the case file includes two more people, whose details have been identified and are being sought.
A case file was filed against them for, on a case-by-case basis, the formation and membership of a criminal organization, human trafficking, mediation in the adoption of a minor by profession, violations of the law on the application of medically assisted reproduction, forgery, disruption of family order, fraud, physical harm and violation of drug legislation.
It was preceded by an appropriate use of information and from the subsequent, methodical investigation, it emerged that the members of the organization had joined it with a specific hierarchical structure, having a long-lasting and multi-year illegal activity in the marketing of eggs, in vitro fertilization as well as in the adoption of babies.
In more detail, having as the site of their illegal action a fertility center in an area of Crete, the two leading members-directors of the clinic, recruited "brokers" in Crete, Thessaloniki and abroad, with the aim of locating and extracting consent from vulnerable foreign women to transport them inside the country and exploit them as egg donors or surrogate mothers.
Then, the network of "brokers" transported the foreign women inside the country so that through their exploitation they could satisfy the requests of the organization's "clients" from all over the world (couples who could not have children, single men or same-sex couples), which did not meet the legal requirements.
Subsequently, the women were either subjected to special treatment as egg donors, which were used in in vitro fertilization methods, but also in surrogacy programs or were included in controlled areas used by the criminal organization, with the aim of becoming pregnant in an environment of labor exploitation in derogation of the relevant legislation (overage, forged court decisions, inaccurate, incomplete or non-existent medical history) and then, for a fee, deliver the babies. In some cases, before the women were used as surrogate mothers, they were further exploited, taking eggs from them as well.
In order to achieve their goal, the members of the organization committed a number of separate criminal acts and in particular prepared false supporting documents for the purpose of issuing a court decision, for people who did not meet the legal requirements and in collaboration with clinics, medical laboratories and doctors, they falsified birth records, falsified medical documents, prepared fictitious leases and fictitious cohabitations.
At the same time, in cases of interested parents from countries where the process of obtaining a child through a surrogate mother was prohibited, they declared the births as adoptions.
In addition, it was found that they acted as intermediaries in illegal adoptions of babies for a monetary exchange while systematically deceiving women by falsely claiming that they had submitted them to an embryo transfer procedure.
The members of the organization were organized, having distinct roles, as follows:
The leader and coordinator of the group was a 73-year-old local doctor, founder and administrator of the clinic. He directed the "brokers" and supervised the legal processing of the surrogacy programs while guiding the other members in order to harmonize the elements that would be included in each decision with the legal procedure followed by them. Also, with money from the organization, he financed the renting of houses in an area of Crete for temporary accommodation of pregnant women. 44-year-old native, second in command, who received instructions only from the leader. His role was to supervise, direct and coordinate the duties and actions of the other members. He also performed medical procedures on victims of human trafficking and made falsified registrations of ovulations in the Registry of Donations.
A 44-year-old woman and a 37-year-old woman had the basic responsibility of supervising, transporting, taking care of the accommodation and payment of the legal fees as well as administering the drugs to the surrogate mothers. The 37-year-old also acted as a broker while the 44-year-old handled the execution of fictitious leases, falsification of court cases, etc. Their fee for each surrogate mother they introduced into the process started from 5.000 euros and the monthly fee for their supervision by the court until the birth from 300-600 euros. A 41-year-old female assistant embryologist participated together with the 44-year-old deputy chief in genetic material egg retrievals as well as embryo transfers into women's bodies. In addition, she was involved in finding interested childless and same-sex couples from Italy, gathering the necessary documents as well as providing her father's house for surrogate mothers and donors to live in.
Also, from virtual embryo transfer operations, the illegal benefit far exceeds 120.000 euros.
In house searches, a large number of documents (judicial decisions, medical files, cohabitation agreements, private agreements), a large number of digital evidence (usb, hard drives, telephone numbers), handwritten notes and agendas confirming the "legitimate" payments were found and confiscated of the money to the victims of trafficking, 90.475 euros as proceeds of criminal activities, prepaid cards as well as a small amount of cocaine.
As part of the operation, 30 foreign women, egg donors or pregnant women with the process of surrogacy were identified, who were examined in the presence of a psychologist from the Greek Police. In addition, the international non-profit and non-governmental organization A21, responsible for the care and support of trafficking victims, was informed, which sent a team of women's support and management.
At the same time, the National Authority for Medically Assisted Reproduction was informed about its own further actions, while the SDOE is conducting a financial and tax audit, as well as an investigation into other activities of the criminal organization.
Those arrested are being taken to the competent prosecuting authority, while the preliminary investigation work to ascertain the full extent of their criminal activity continues.