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Woman cleared of misappropriation in child adoption case


A woman who had been given a suspended jail term after she was found guilty of misappropriating €8,153 from a couple who wanted to adopt a child, has been acquitted on appeal.

Concetta Charles had been sentenced to jail for a year suspended for four and ordered to pay Vincent and Frances Cassar €8,153.

The court heard that Ms Charles had always admitted she owed the Cassars money and wanted to pay it back, but in May 2006, she landed in a difficult situation and could not return it.

Her husband, Dennis Charles, had been imprisoned in Pakistan only to be released later when the Human Rights Commission in Pakistan found that he had been convicted of kidnapping, smuggling of transplanting child organs without any evidence having been produced.

His release came after Ms Charles went to Pakistan on her own and fought for her husband's freedom.

Inspector Maurice Curmi told the court that in 2006, the Cassars had reported that they had paid Ms Charles Lm5,500 to adopt a seven month old baby from Pakistan within a year in line, with a contract drawn up in 2004.

But when the baby was not presented in the stipulated time, in May 2006, Ms Charles returned Lm2,000 and promised to give the Cassars the remainder of their money at a later date.

When the police sent for her, she insisted she would refund the money.

In 2002, Interpol informed the Malta police then several members of an organisation that was getting Pakistani children adopted in Malta, had been arrested. These included Ms Charles' husband.

The police, therefore, took action against Ms Charles, who was handling her husband's work while he was under arrest.

In a statement she gave the police in July 2006, Ms Charles said that the New United Christian Foundation had been set up to help children in need in Pakiastan. It was registered in 1998.

The money obtained from adoptions was used to help children in Pakistan. The foundation continued to bring children over until 2001.

In March 2002, a raid was carried out at a house in Pakistan where, according to letters received by the Pakistani police, stolen children were being kept.

But the situation was cleared and the foundation started getting children again, with the last one arriving in Malta in 2005.

Ms Charles said that the money given by the Cassars had been sent to Pakistan by Western Union in a number of instalments.

Their adopted child was never brought to Malta because of problems regarding permits for the child to be taken out of the country.

In 2005, Ms Charles signed another contract with the Cassars to get out of the original contract and promised to refund the remaining Lm3,500.

Judge Lawrence Quintano concluded that Ms Charles had always admitted she owed the money so much so that an agreement stating this had been drawn up between her and the couple.

Therefore, the money due was not misappropriated, but unsettled credit. The agreement could be enforced through civil means. Mr Justice Quintano therefore acquitted Ms Charles of the misappropriation charge.

2011 Jun 8