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Baby close to death in Pakistan/Malta child smuggling scandal


Baby close to death in Pakistan/Malta child smuggling scandal

A Pakistani man and his Maltese wife remained embroiled yesterday in a scandal relating to the alleged kidnapping of 11 babies who police say were being kept in appalling conditions while waiting to be smuggled into Malta for adoption purposes.

The four boys and seven girls, whose ages ranged from two months to three years, were rescued from a bungalow in Gulshan-i-Iqbal on Friday. Police said one eight-week-old girl is refusing milk, probably because she was being breastfed, and is close to death.

They have arrested five women and three men in connection with the case.

Those arrested have been identified as Dennis Charles, suspected of being the ringleader of the scam, his brother Derrick and their mother, Joyce, Joseph Aziz, and four nannies, Shazia, Nasreen, Parveen and Zeenat.

Dennis Charles is the husband of Maltese national Concetta Charles, who has been bringing Pakistani babies over to Malta for adoption since 1997, through the United Christian Foundation. Charles was previously arrested in Pakistan on charges of smuggling children in 1998 and, according to the police, fled while on bail.

But Mrs Charles denies the accusations completely, saying that the children were not being smuggled into Malta, but were part of ‘bona fide’ adoptions arranged with Maltese families to give the children better opportunities in life. The Maltese families have already made part-payments for the children.

City police chief, Asad Jehangir, said they had recovered 13 passports from the possession of the suspects, which were issued from Hyderabad. Fake birth certificates had also been recovered, police said, even for the newborns, who were to be sold for around $20,000.

He said in the majority of such cases children were bought from poverty-stricken parents, and if their children were recovered, they did not want to claim them for fear of arrest or interrogation.

"We are doubtful that the parents of these 11 children will contact us after the news appears in the press. But in particular, I appeal to the parents of a two-month-old girl to contact us as she is not having milk as she might have been breast-feeding. She is crying and keeps fainting. She is not even drinking water, or anything else. If she will not have milk, she may die," he said.

According to Fayyaz Leghari, city police deputy inspector general, the babies were confined to a single room, which had nothing but an old, dirty mattress on the floor. "The babies slept, fed and passed all their time there," he said.

Police said the suspects hired four nurses to look after the babies until they could be taken to Malta, a process potentially speeded up by the Pakistani passports the children had been given in Hyderabad, 160km north of Karachi.

2002 Mar 17