Romanian prosecutor wants baby returned

A ROMANIAN prosecutor yesterday appealed to a British couple named as 'Bob and Helen' to return a baby girl they allegedly smuggled out of the country last November.

Emil Dinu, chief district prosecutor in Bucharest, said that the couple had paid a Romanian middleman dollars 6,000 ( pounds 3,900) for the baby, then aged five months, and had taken her home to adopt her.

He said their success had inspired Adrian and Bernadette Mooney, the British couple caught trying to do the same thing earlier this month and now facing trial in Bucharest on charges of breaking Romania's adoption and border laws.

Despite the fact that the girl smuggled out last November had now been in Britain for eight months, Mr Dinu urged her adoptive parents to bring her back. 'I would like to appeal to the people involved to return to Romania and to establish a proper legal basis for their custody of the girl,' Mr Dinu said. We would not want to prosecute them. We just want their help in clarifying precisely what happened last November.'

Mr Dinu, who is leading the prosecution against Mr and Mrs Mooney of Wokingham, Berkshire, is currently trying to ascertain the full extent of British involvement in the baby smuggling trade out of Romania.

He said that the Mooneys had told him they had been in touch with the couple he named as Bob and Helen, prior to coming to Romania.

Like the earlier couple, Mr and Mrs Mooney, who at 41 and 39 respectively are judged too old to adopt under British law, had sought the advice of Amanda Page, a British lawyer from Oxfordshire, Mr Dinu claimed. And in both cases, he added, the Romania middleman who set up the deal was Ioan Batrana, now in jail awaiting trial on charges of child trafficking.

The Mooneys were caught trying to take a five-month-old baby girl across to Hungary by car on 6 July. After two weeks in custody, they were released on bail earlier this week.

Under Romanian law, violation of the adoption law carries a one- to five-year jail sentence, although it can be suspended.