'Maria' Case Leads Greek Police to Child Trafficking Ring

Date: 2013-10-27

'Maria' Case Leads Greek Police to Child Trafficking Ring
Crime | October 27, 2013, Sunday // 09:53

Over 100 Bulgarian children have been adopted from the hospital in Greece, where Bulgarian Roma girl Maria was born.

Maria was, most likely, part of an organized crime scheme for the sale of Bulgarian children in Greece.

This was reported specially for Novinite.com from the site www.zougla.gr, the Greek News Portal of popular investigative journalist and TV presenter Makis Triantafyllopoulos.

Currently the Subdivision of Internal Affairs of the Greek Police is conducting an extensive search in the archives of the hospital of Lamia and the registrar of the municipality, in connection with the case of little Maria – "the Blond Angel," who, as has revealed earlier by zougla.gr, was born in the town of Lamia on January 31, 2009.

Police officers of the anti-corruption unit have stated for zougla.gr that there is an ongoing major investigation in order to determine whether hospital and municipal employees were involved in an illegal adoptions scam.

"There is strong evidence that employees of the hospital tampered documents relating to births of children, mostly those born from women with Bulgarian nationality who wanted to give their newborn children for adoption. We are waiting for the results of the investigation," they have indicated, as cited by zougla.gr.

According to the journalist investigation, the probe has targeted, among others, an executive of the hospital, which has studied in Bulgaria, therefore speaks the language fluently and reportedly worked at the hospital during the period when Sasha Ruseva gave birth to Maria.

The probe is also involving other employees who allegedly have connections with the Greece's northern neighbor and are very likely associated with facilitating illegal adoptions.

Furthermore, according to the police in Livanates, where Maria's biological mother resided while in Greece, there are more than 1 000 Roma in the area, mainly from Bulgaria, who are working occasional jobs.

There have been a number of incidents of illegal infant trafficking in this same area.

Ten years ago, one such "blunt" case in a private clinic has been revealed. Midwives, lawyers and doctors were amongst those arrested. In a more recent child trafficking scheme that operated in Central Greece, Roma women were "recruited" in Bulgaria; brought to Greece to give birth and the newborns were sold to Greek couples. The authorities are probing about 40 similar cases.

However, of particular interest is the fact that, according to hospital's official data, both the number of women from Bulgaria, who gave birth in Lamia, and of the children given up for adoption is too large.

Furthermore, from all foreign mothers, who gave birth in the hospital of Lamia, only Bulgarian women gave up their children for adoption. It is also worth noting that during in 2010, 2011, and 2012, the number of adoptions has declined, apparently due to the economic crisis.

"Obviously, the case requires further extensive research on all levels, as there are strong indications that for several years there was an active organized network of illegal infant trafficking in this particular institution. It is worth noting that these figures have been confirmed in a statement by the competent Deputy Mayor of the Municipality of Lamia, Mr. Sotiris Koutsovelis," zougla.gr writes.

The four-year old blonde child, known as Maria, was found recently by Greek police during a drug raid on a Roma community near Larissa in central Greece.

A 40-year old woman and 39 -year-old man have been arrested and charged with kidnapping, since DNA tests revealed that the couple with whom Maria lived was not her biological parents.

Greek authorities then requested assistance from Interpol to find the parents of the girl.

The team of journalists from zougla.gr and Makis Triantafyllopoulos, revealed Thursday morning that the parents were Bulgarian Roma Sasha and Atanas Rusevi.

The Greek journalists published the ID cards of the family with the prosecution's permission. This led the authorities to the Roma quarters of the Bulgarian town of Nikolaevo in the central Stara Zagora region.

The couple was questioned Thursday by local police and was later taken with three of their children to the capital Sofia for further questioning and for DNA tests ordered by the Bulgarian Interior Ministry.

On Friday the Chief Secretary of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry, Chief Commissar, Svetozar Lazarov, reported that Bulgarian Roma, Sasha Ruseva is the biological mother and Atanas Rusev is the biological father of the child.

Sasha Ruseva says she gave Maria as "gift" to an acquaintance in Greece, who was childless and offered to take care of the girl. At the time, the child was 7-months old and was named Stanka.

She is adamant she has not sold the child, and poverty forced her to simply let other people raise her. Some neighbors, however, claim the couple was paid BGN 500 for the baby.

Sasha, 38, and Atanas have between 7 and 10 children. However, they, themselves, are not sure of the exact number. Five of the children in the family have light skin and bear an obvious resemblance to the girl found in Greece.

The family is very poor and all live in one room. TV footage showed Maria's siblings walking around the filthy home and neighborhood half naked. They seldom have anything to eat, but flour gruel.

bTV also reported that the "blond" gene of the five children was inherited from the mother Sasha who has albinos in her kin.

Greek psychologists established that Maria has been abused. They say she is very aggressive and describe her reactions as those of "a beast."

It was reported meanwhile that the child will be brought to her native country and placed in a crisis center of the family type and later in a foster home.

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