Illegal adoptions: investigation into Hamburg-based organization

A Hamburg-based organization allegedly placed children from Russia with German adoptive parents, illegally.

The prosecutor has indicted three responsible employees - two women and a man - for commercial child trafficking, as spolesman Wilhelm Möller reported on Tuesday.

With that he confirmed a report from NDR 90.3 and NDR Info.

"According to our investigation, 30 Russian children are involved - orphans or children from socially weak families."

The defendants deny the allegations.

The association ICCO (International Child Care Organisation) has never had or received official permission and approval to operate adoptions in Russia adoption, said Moller.

The adoptions themselves are legal now and therefore the parents don't have to worry that they will be separated from their children.

The organization was already denied approval to perform foreign adoptions in 2006.

According to the prosecutor, the German adoptive parents have paid ICCO € 475,000 for mediation.

"Slightly more than half of that amount was transfered to a U.S. agency", said Moller.

The American agency had an intermediary," they had the contacts with Russian authorities.

The investigations relate to the period from May 2003 to December 2006.

The prosecution likes to see the accused before the Hamburg court.

Illegale Adoptionen: Ermittlung gegen Hamburger Verein

Ein Hamburger Verein soll illegal Kinder aus Russland an deutsche Adoptiveltern vermittelt haben.

Die Staatsanwaltschaft hat daher drei hauptverantwortliche Mitarbeiter - zwei Frauen und einen Mann - wegen gewerbsmäßigen Kinderhandels angeklagt, wie Behördensprecher Wilhelm Möllers am Dienstag berichtete.

Er bestätigte damit einen Bericht von NDR 90,3 und NDR Info.

"Es handelt sich nach unseren Ermittlungen um 30 russische Kinder - Waisenkinder oder Kinder aus sozial schwachen Familien."

Die Beschuldigten bestreiten die Vorwürfe.

Der Verein ICCO (International Child Care Organisation) habe zu keiner Zeit die behördliche Erlaubnis und Genehmigung gehabt, in Russland Adoptionsverfahren zu betreiben, betonte Möllers.

Dennoch seien die Adoptionen nun formal rechtmäßig - die Eltern müssen daher nicht fürchten, dass sie von ihren Kindern getrennt werden. Dem Verein war bereits im Jahr 2006 die Zulassung für Auslandsadoptionen entzogen worden.

Die deutschen Adoptiveltern sollen nach Angaben der Staatsanwaltschaft für die Vermittlung 475 000 Euro an ICCO gezahlt haben.

"Etwas mehr als die Hälfte dieses Betrags wurde an eine amerikanische Vermittlungsagentur weitergeleitet", sagte Möllers.

Die amerikanische Agentur sei "zwischengeschaltet" worden, sie habe Kontakt zu den russischen Behörden gehabt.

Die Ermittlungen beziehen sich auf die Zeit von Mai 2003 bis Dezember 2006.

Nach dem Willen der Staatsanwaltschaft sollen sich die Beschuldigten vor dem Hamburger Landgericht verantworten.


Why only now?

I don't know what took German authorities so long to file these allegations. These investigations were started in 2006. At the time the American agency mentioned in the article (AMREX), was still in business and taking legal actions at the time could have had more impact than 4 years after the fact.

What influence, if any?

The association ICCO (International Child Care Organisation) has never had or received official permission and approval to operate adoptions in Russia adoption, said Moller.

The adoptions themselves are legal now and therefore the parents don't have to worry that they will be separated from their children.

Things like this confuse me... how can an illegal adoption become legal?  Can anyone explain?  If a child has been illegally obtained for an adoption, (the child has been kidnapped/stolen, and identifying documentation has been changed), doesn't that make that adoption null and void?  [Shouldn't it be null and void?]

Meanwhile, back to the present and future plans for Russia in Adoptionland, from what I understand, the next round of Russian-US adoption talks are set for June, will information like this from Germany, have any influence on those talks?

Illegal adoption legal

I'll try to explain from our experience, Kerry.  In 1998 an Indian court issued a guardianship order for our son and daughter, appointing us their legal guardians. After bringing them into our home, we completed their adoption in an Australian court, using the Indian guardianship order as part of the verification that the legal process had been completed in India.

We now know, 12 years after our children's adoption, that the original adoption documents presented to the overseas court had been falsified and the children's mother had not consented to their adoption.  We located our children's Indian mother in 2006 and only received copies of the original documents in 2009 after engaging a lawyer in India and commencing court action to obtain those documents.

As things stand now, their adoption remains legal. Nobody has contested the original decision in India. If that guardianship order was contested and found to be based on false information, that decision would (presumably) be overturned. Then, an application could be made in the Australian court to overturn the adoption order, again showing that it had been based on false information and that the guardianship order had now been overturned.  Until such time as this happens, the adoption order is recognised and remains legal - as it hasn't been contested.

We have commenced legal action in India, requesting the court to order an investigation of our case.  However, although we are convinced that our children were not legally available for adoption, we are not overturning their adoption order.  Their Indian mother wants the children to remain in our family, and the children (now 15 and nearly 17) definitely want to remain with us. At this stage, we don't see that anything positive would be achieved by overturning their adoption, which could essentially leave the children without a legal status. Our son and daughter already know the truth.

So, we are in the paradoxical situation of recognising our children's adoption was illegal but still having a legal adoption.

What a nightmare!

I appreciate you taking the time to explain what happened in your own situation.  It's a lot to digest and absorb.  It reads to me like a nightmare no parent would want to endure.

I see the enormous turning-point being, Nobody has contested the original decision in India.

From what I understand, many poverty-stricken first-parents simply don't have the money to afford the legal fees necessary to fight a custody battle.  Add the fact, thanks to adoption, her children are no longer living in abject poverty; they are living in a home, they are receiving an education, they are "doing well".  If we are to say all parental love is equal, one can easily assume those children are "better" in Australia than India.  However, I have trouble with the idea that the poor mother never gave original consent. Consequences should go with that action made against another.  Parents who need help/assistance should not lose their parental rights/children to the those with more money and all the "better" it can bring.  [In many abuse cases, the "better" more financially stable adoptive home proved to be little more than a new house of horrors, negating the myth that all adoptions provide "improvement" for a child.]  

I'm very your knowledge, what has been done to the third-parties involved in this adoption?

Also, it's a difficult question to consider, one I'm sure you asked yourself more than once or twice --  what would you have done if the first-mother did want her children back?


Big questions...

Hi Kerry,

It was a nightmare for us as parents of two very much loved and happy children. However, our difficulties pale when compared to the agony experienced by our children's first mother. We were worried about losing our children and were coping with the anger and sorrow of what we'd uncovered - she was coping with the actual loss of her babies and the belief they may have been blinded or had died!  I can barely bring myself to imagine her anguish, which she carried for ten years before we found her and answered her questions.

In our case, the cost for her of fighting a legal battle really didn't enter the picture - probably because our children's first mother, Sunama, saw us as allies from the moment we found her. She'd given up hope of locating her children, missing for ten years after her first husband sold them. She believed they were in a begging gang or quite possibly dead. She remarried and had five more children. Then, without warning, we found her and reunited her with her teenage son and daughter. She told us she was overjoyed to discover that her little boy and baby girl hadn't died or lived a miserable life as beggars, but were loved, safe and were happy.

I don't think it is really an issue of the children being materially better off, though I also don't kid myself that Sunama has anything like the resources that we have - or that the issue isn't heavily weighted in our favour.  It is more about the fact that the children had grown up in our family, the only family either child remembered, and were much loved and firmly attached to our family. The children were absolutely definite in their demand to remain living with us. Instead of returning the children permanently to India, we've tried to open our hearts to include our children's Indian family as an extension of our own.  We are now planning our third reunion trip to India, staying each time with our children's Indian family. We have also taken over responsibility for the maintenance and education of their little brothers and sisters in India - hoping to lift the family out of their poverty.

What would we have done if Sunama had demanded their return? The honest answer is that we would have fought to keep our son and daughter.  We couldn't have handed the children back, then aged 12 and 13, as if it was a property dispute we'd lost.  They are "my" children, every bit as much a part of my soul as the children I gave birth to. I don't mind sharing them at all, but I couldn't put myself through the agony Sunama experienced. I did think about that scenario many times as we searched for their, at the time unknown, first mother, fearing what we might find if we uncovered corruption in their adoption. That fear nearly made me not search ... thinking at times that it was better to live with uncertainty than to possibly walk straight into a horror story (which was just what we did do!) 

Maybe the difference in our case, as in the Smolin's case, is that we initiated the search. We found a mother who didn't expect to be found, and reunited her with children she's assumed were gone forever. She recognised that her babies no longer existed, and that the teenagers she was meeting saw themselves as members of our family.

We decided to go public about our case, with our children and Sunama's permission, in an effort to uncover corruption in adoption. I believe adoption can serve the interests of children but only in certain circumstances and when conducted in a transparent manner. What we'd been involved in was a travesty of children's rights.

What has been done to the people who caused this? It is our understanding that our children's first father is dead, so it looks like he'll escape being answerable for his actions. We tried, through writing letters and enlisting the assistance of our government, to get an investigation of our case - but our letters were unanswered. A year ago, we engaged a lawyer in India and lodged a legal case in the Chennai high court, outlining what we discovered and requesting the court to order an investigation of our children's adoption - to learn who trafficked the children and, hopefully, provide sufficient evidence for them to be charged.


Pound Pup Legacy