'Dragon's Den' judge apologises for offer to buy Pakistani baby

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The Independent Online

The multi-millionaire entrepreneur James Caan apologised yesterday for offering to buy a baby for his brother during a trip to Pakistan.

The Dragons' Den judge was filmed making the offer at a refugee camp following this summer's devastating floods which displaced more than 21 million people.

His cash offer, made in front of an ITV camera crew, drew widespread criticism from children's charities.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday, Mr Caan explained that it was "clearly wrong" to offer to buy a newborn baby girl that was presented to him at a refugee camp for victims of the floods. "In that moment of emotion, you immediately feel there's something you could do," he explained.

"What can you do to increase that child's survival? So I offered to help the family by offering to adopt the baby and then on reflection realised that the baby belongs to the family and the village and I'm really here to adopt a village, not a baby."

The British-Pakistani entrepreneur, who is helping to rebuild a village north of Islamabad that was inundated by the flood waters, added that what he did was "clearly not the right thing to do" and that he had not been thinking rationally. In ITV's footage, Mr Caan was seen offering the parents of a newborn daughter 100,000 rupees (£742) in exchange for their child.

"I'm being 100 per cent serious," he said to his translator. "My brother lives here and he desperately wants to have a baby. We could give this little baby the best life she could ever have."

Immediately after those comments, his daughter Hanah tried to warn her father against making such a proposal but it was ignored. However, later that day the Dragons' Den star had begun to recognise his offer should not have been made. "I was so taken with emotion," he told the camera crew. "What I have to remember is that I am here to build a village. That child belongs to that family."

Mr Caan heads a foundation aiming to raise £500,000 to rebuild the devastated village of Jan Lunda, 100 miles north-west of Islamabad. His personal role in bringing aid to Pakistan has been widely praised.