Trinidad couple among 3 charged over ‘sale’ of Venezuelan baby

(Trinidad Guardian) Three peo­ple, in­clud­ing a Trinci­ty cou­ple, have been charged with il­le­gal­ly adopt­ing a Venezue­lan in­fant in what po­lice are call­ing a his­toric case.

The Trinci­ty cou­ple was ar­rest­ed on Tues­day and re­leased lat­er the same day af­ter be­ing grant­ed sta­tion bail at the St Joseph Po­lice Sta­tion.

A third sus­pect, whom po­lice say is a Colom­bian na­tion­al, was ar­rest­ed on Wednes­day. Two more peo­ple, both lawyers, are be­ing sought in con­nec­tion with the case, as po­lice say the charges are a re­sult of a month-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter a Venezue­lan woman al­leged she had been co­erced by a group of in­di­vid­u­als to give up her child and was be­ing pre­vent­ed from re­unit­ing with the child.

The three were charged un­der the Adop­tion of Chil­dren Act, 2000 Sec­tion 9:2. This sec­tion states: “For the pur­pos­es of this Act, a per­son who takes part in the ar­rang­ing of an adop­tion or in the man­age­ment or con­trol of a body of per­sons oth­er than the Board (of the Chil­dren’s Au­thor­i­ty) which ex­ists whol­ly or in part for the pur­pose of mak­ing arrange­ments for the adop­tion of chil­dren is li­able on sum­ma­ry con­vic­tion to a fine of $10,000 or to im­pris­on­ment for two years.”

Guardian Me­dia un­der­stands that the Trinci­ty cou­ple pe­ti­tioned the Fam­i­ly Court for cus­tody of the ba­by, af­ter he was hand­ed over to the Chil­dren’s Au­thor­i­ty. The Chil­dren’s Au­thor­i­ty stepped in to in­ves­ti­gate the ve­rac­i­ty of the ba­by’s moth­er’s com­plaint and how the cou­ple came to be car­ing for the child to the point where they felt they could adopt him via the Fam­i­ly Court. The was ar­rest­ed be­fore they could hear the Fam­i­ly Court’s de­ci­sion on Tues­day morn­ing.

Po­lice say the ba­by is yet to be re­unit­ed with his birth moth­er, who has de­nied re­ports that she tried to sell him to the cou­ple and in­stead claims she was tricked in­to giv­ing him up. The child is now in the cus­tody of the Chil­dren’s Au­thor­i­ty.

Po­lice of­fi­cers from the Counter-Traf­fick­ing Unit, head­ed by Alana Wheel­er, al­so as­sist­ed in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

PC Samali George laid the charges.

Ac­cord­ing to po­lice sources, this is the first time po­lice have charged any­one un­der the act.

The Chil­dren’s Au­thor­i­ty web­site fre­quent­ly asked ques­tions (FAQs) sec­tion states that if per­sons in­ter­est­ed in adop­tion have iden­ti­fied a child they want to adopt, they can take the in­for­ma­tion to the at­ten­tion of the au­thor­i­ty.

“You may bring this in­for­ma­tion to the at­ten­tion of the Au­thor­i­ty, how­ev­er the child’s or chil­dren’s adopt­abil­i­ty must be eval­u­at­ed be­fore the child can be in­clud­ed in the adop­tion process,” the web­site states.

How­ev­er, the Unit­ed Na­tions Con­ven­tion against Transna­tion­al Or­gan­ised Crime de­fines traf­fick­ing in per­sons as “(a) the re­cruit­ment, trans­porta­tion, trans­fer, har­bour­ing or re­ceipt of per­sons, by means of the threat or use of force or oth­er forms of co­er­cion, of ab­duc­tion, of fraud, of de­cep­tion, of the abuse of pow­er or of a po­si­tion of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty or of the giv­ing or re­ceiv­ing of pay­ments or ben­e­fits to achieve the con­sent of a per­son hav­ing con­trol over an­oth­er per­son, for the pur­pose of ex­ploita­tion.”

The con­ven­tion, to which Trinidad and To­ba­go is a sig­na­to­ry, states: “Ex­ploita­tion shall in­clude, at a min­i­mum, the ex­ploita­tion of the pros­ti­tu­tion of oth­ers or oth­er forms of sex­u­al ex­ploita­tion, forced labour or ser­vices, slav­ery or prac­tices sim­i­lar to slav­ery, servi­tude or the re­moval of or­gans.”

How­ev­er, in the case of chil­dren, the con­ven­tion states that “the re­cruit­ment, trans­porta­tion, trans­fer, har­bour­ing or re­ceipt of a child for the pur­pose of ex­ploita­tion shall be con­sid­ered “traf­fick­ing in per­sons” even if this does not in­volve any of the means set forth in sub­para­graph (a) of this ar­ti­cle.”

In its list of Hu­man Traf­fick­ing in­di­ca­tors, the Unit­ed Na­tions Of­fice on Drug and Crimes (UN­ODC) al­so lists the dis­cov­ery of cas­es in­volv­ing il­le­gal adop­tion as one in­di­ca­tor that chil­dren may have been traf­ficked.

At the 34th ses­sion of the Unit­ed Na­tions Hu­man Rights Coun­cil (UNHRC) in March 2017, Spe­cial Rap­por­teur Maud de Boer-Buquic­chio said il­le­gal adop­tions are thriv­ing world­wide.

“All adop­tions which re­sult from the com­mis­sion of crimes such as the ab­duc­tion, sale and traf­fick­ing of chil­dren, and from il­lic­it prac­tices such as lack of prop­er in­formed con­sent by bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents, im­prop­er fi­nan­cial gain by in­ter­me­di­aries and re­lat­ed cor­rup­tion, are il­le­gal, and must be pro­hib­it­ed, crim­i­nalised and sanc­tioned as such by all Mem­ber States,” De Boer-Buquic­chio said.

“The kid­nap­ping of ba­bies, false­ly in­form­ing par­ents that their ba­by was still­born or died short­ly af­ter birth, the con­sent of bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents ob­tained through mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions, bribery or co­er­cion, the pay­ment for the child and bribes paid to in­ter­me­di­aries in­volved in the adop­tion process are among the most com­mon meth­ods of sale and il­le­gal adop­tion of chil­dren. In­her­ent to these meth­ods is the fal­si­fi­ca­tion of doc­u­ments and by­pass­ing of reg­u­la­tions.”

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