(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.”