Kidnapped children adopted by Australians

Date: 2008-08-23

Kidnapped children adopted by Australians

August 23, 2008
TIM DICK

AT LEAST 13 young children from India were kidnapped, given new identities and adopted by unsuspecting Australian families, according to Indian police.

The allegations, detailed in Time magazine, centre on a dubious Chennai orphanage-cum-adoption agency called Malaysian Social Services.

The agency was able to arrange adoptions for Australians, even after an Indian court cancelled one family's proposed adoption in 1995 because MSS had lied when it claimed a five-year-old girl was abandoned.

It continued to send children to Australia - to Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT - before its principals were arrested over the kidnapping racket in 2005.

Citing Indian court documents, Time said children had been snatched by gangs and sold to MSS for 10,000 rupees ($263) each. Of 120 children it sent overseas, at least 13 went to Australia.

One was a two-year-old girl identified only as Zabeen, who was snatched while playing outside a tea shop in northern Chennai, and adopted by a Queensland couple through MSS in 2000, along with her purported sibling, another child stolen from a different family.

Zabeen's mother, Fatima, told the magazine: "I thought someone had taken her for her kidney."

In 2005, she and her husband identified their daughter from photographs taken from MSS files. "When she knows that she has her parents here, I'm sure that she will come looking for us," she said.

Queensland's Child Safety Minister, Margaret Keech, said the allegations were "very concerning", and promised that Adoption Services Queensland would co-operate with investigating authorities.

The state's other MSS child was adopted in 1995, before the time most of the kidnappings are thought to have happened, between 1998 and 1999.

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