Russia launches criminal inquiry into U.S. child trafficking

Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Mark Heinrich
December 5, 2013 /

(Reuters) - Russian federal investigators have launched a criminal probe into suspected child trafficking in the United States following a Reuters investigation which found that adopted children, some born in Russia, were being traded on the Internet.

The Investigative Committee opened the case after the reports found "adopted Russian children being transferred to different families in breach of their rights", spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement on Thursday.

The Reuters investigation uncovered an underground market where desperate parents sought new families for children they had adopted but no longer wanted.

Parents connect through online forums on Yahoo and Facebook, privately arranging custody transfers that can bypass government oversight and sometimes violate the law.

Markin said that 26 Russian children had been among those traded through such forums. Some later became victims of sexual abuse.

Russia banned adoptions of its children by U.S. families nearly a year ago, in a tit-for-tat diplomatic row over a law passed by Congress that denied visas to Russians suspected of human rights violations.

In October, a month after the Reuters investigation, U.S. lawmakers called for federal action to prevent parents from giving unwanted adopted children to strangers met on the Internet. The Illinois attorney general has also urged Facebook and Yahoo to police online groups where children may be advertised.

A study last month by Donaldson Adoption Institute, a major U.S. adoption research group, called for "targeted laws, policies and practices" to stop adoptive parents from giving up children to strangers through the Internet.

The report said that problems exposed by the Reuters investigation "should be seen as the tip of an iceberg of unmonitored, unregulated adoption-related activities taking place on the Internet."

Reuters found that many children offered to strangers were adopted from a foreign country and suffered from emotional or behavioral problems that their adoptive parents could not handle. The parents complained they did not receive proper training, could not get help from the U.S. government, and often knew little about the child's history before adopting.


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