Vietnamese adoption agent was jailed in US for fraud

Date: 2006-06-20

By Ann McElhinney

THE woman responsible for organising the adoption of Vietnamese babies for Irish people is a convicted criminal who spent three years in a US prison.
My Linh Soland, an American citizen, pleaded guilty in 1995 to two counts of conspiracy to defraud, obstruction of justice and witness intimidation. The Virginia Bar Association has confirmed Ms Soland was debarred in 1995 for committing "false and deceitful representations".

In 2004, she was vetted and chosen by the Irish Adoption Board and the Vietnamese authorities as the person best suited to organise Vietnamese adoptions. She was given an exclusive right to organise all adoptions of Vietnamese babies by Irish couples.

To adopt a baby in Vietnam, each Irish couple must pay a fee of $8,700 (€6,900). This fee is paid in two instalments directly to Ms Soland. The first is paid by bank draft "made out to My Linh Soland", and the balance paid in cash to her in small denomination notes, the Irish Adoption Board regulations state.

This means Ms Soland has so far grossed more than $1m (€795,000) arranging 150 adoptions for Irish couples. The average salary in Vietnam is around $50 (€39.80) a month.

Ms Soland's appointment was part of a bid to clean up the process of adoptions from Vietnam. Before her appointment as the exclusive facilitator, adoptions were suspended because of allegations of widespread corruption in the process.

The Irish Adoption Board has suspended Ms Soland from any involvement in Vietnamese adoptions and have asked gardai to investigate. Ms Soland had been responsible for providing all the paperwork about babies to be adopted.

This paperwork would have to comply with Irish and Vietnamese law and the Hague Convention. It would also show that the natural parents of the baby had abandoned the child or had consented to the adoption.

It seems neither the Irish Adoption Board nor the adoptive parents knew Ms Soland was a convicted fraudster. She had been convicted of supplying fraudulent paperwork for a €4,000 fee in the mid-90s.

She was involved in finding an American 'spouse' for illegal immigrants and then coaching 'couples' to lie to immigration officials.

Two weeks ago, Ms Soland was in Ireland for the launch of the Helping Hands adoption agency, chosen by the Irish Government to facilitate adoptions from the Irish side.

The agency said it was employing Ms Soland to continue to work on Irish adoptions as a facilitator and consultant.

Yesterday, Sharon O'Driscoll, CEO of Helping Hands, confirmed gardai were probing Ms Soland's past. She confirmed Ms Soland had worked with them on adoptions until two weeks ago. Ms O'Driscoll initially said Ms Soland only worked as a translator on Irish adoptions. However, when it was pointed out that Ms Soland was described by the Irish Adoption Board as a facilitator, Ms O'Driscoll agreed this was so. No one at the Adoption Board was available for comment. A statement on its website said the probe would not affect completed adoptions, and there would be no suspension of pending Vietnamese adoptions.


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