British woman 'fixes babies-for-cash deals': Adoption agencies fear desperate couples embroiled in illegal trade in children. Steve Boggan reports

ADOPTION agencies believe that a woman in the Home Counties may be arranging babies-for-cash deals for desperate couples prepared to smuggle children out of Romania.

The British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering have been gathering accounts of the woman who, adoption workers say, is involved in inter-country acquisitions of babies for couples who want to bypass legal channels.

Concern over the trade in babies has increased with the arrest of a British husband and wife who tried to leave Romania with a five- month-old girl hidden in a basket. Adrian and Bernadette Mooney, of Wokingham, Berkshire, are being held on 30-day arrest warrants at police headquarters in Bucharest.

British embassy officials in the Romanian capital took the couple toiletries and other comforts yesterday, but the Foreign Office said early hopes that they would be granted bail had not borne fruit.

More than 400 babies were brought into Britain from Romania after the fall of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989. Unofficial figures suggest that up to 200,000 children had been abandoned in hospitals and crumbling orphanages because of desperate economic hardship.

But the new government, embarrassed by the exodus of the children, imposed strict rules in 1991 making the adoption of children a rigorous, bureaucratic process that can take up to three years.

It was in such a climate that Mr and Mrs Mooney, who had legally adopted a daughter before the restrictions, decided to try to smuggle out the second child. Babies are easily obtained for about pounds 10,000 from families that are too poor to support them.

It may also be such a climate that has allowed a 'dealer' to start up business in England. Emil Dinu, the judge hearing the Mooneys' case, said they told him that a deal had been set up in London. Chris Hammond, director of the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), said she has been receiving reports of a fixer preying on desperate couples.

'We were surprised that someone would be involved in Romania because there is a large network of self-help groups who give advice and contacts to people for free, but I have heard from several sources who say that a woman is actively engaged in charging for her services in this area,' she said.

So far, BAAF has failed to identify the woman but adoption workers have been alerted to her activities. 'If we find her, it will not be a matter for the police, but for her local authority under adoption law,' Ms Hammond said.

Paula Marriott, 45, a campaigner with the Adoptive Romanian Children Society and the legal mother of two adopted Romanian children, was also surprised that a fixer would be required in England. 'There are plenty of us over here prepared to offer help, contacts and information for free,' she said. 'We encourage people to operate within the law, but you can understand why people try to bypass it. Those children are living in terrible conditions. When I found my daughter Katie (now aged four) she was four weeks old but had not been fed properly.

'She was dehydrated, malnourished and had bed sores on her heels big enough to put a pen through to her bones. When you see that kind of suffering, the intricacies of paperwork tend to go out of the window.'

Leading article, page 17

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence