Couple deny deceit over baby adoption

A BRITISH couple accused of trying to smuggle a baby out of Romania told a court yesterday that they had paid dollars 6,000 (pounds 4,000) for the girl and then headed by car for the Hungarian border carrying her in a cardboard box.

Adrian and Bernadette Mooney of Wokingham, Berkshire, were giving testimony before a Bucharest court on the first full day of their trial, the first in Romanian history accusing foreigners of breaking tough adoption laws.

Although both admitted handing over money for the baby girl, named Monica, on 5 July, they denied knowingly committing a crime. 'The first time I realised that I had broken the Romanian law was the moment I was seized by the police,' said Adrian Mooney, 42, a brewery manager.

Earlier, Mrs Mooney, 40, claimed that they had simply been following the advice of Amanda Page, a British lawyer who had already helped other British couples seeking to adopt Romanian babies. She said they had turned to Mrs Page in desperation having come up against a brick wall with their inquiries at the Romanian embassy in London. 'We trusted her because she is a lawyer.'

The Mooneys first set eyes on Monica Baiaram, the five-month-old daughter of two unmarried teenage gypsies, on 5 July, at the Bucharest flat of the mother of Ioan Batrana, the man accused of master-minding the deal.

Mr Mooney handed over the dollars 6,000 to Mr Batrana, who claimed the money was to cover his expenses: phone calls to England, translation fees and the preparation of the paperwork stating that the natural parents agreed to give up their child.

According to the state prosecutor, Ms Dimir and her partner received about dollars 1,200 for their daughter, with a dollars 800 going to two accomplices of Mr Batrana, who pocketed the remaining dollars 4,000. Mr Batrana, who was handcuffed, told the court he was unaware his actions could have been contrary to Romanian law.

Mrs Mooney denied there had been any intention to conceal the baby, sedate her, or even to pass her off as Grace, her other daughter, now three, whose details are in her passport, at the border. The case was adjourned for two weeks.

Mrs Page refused to comment yesterday, but has denied being the 'Mrs Fix-it'.

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