British woman is held in Greece after baby is abducted

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The Independent Online

A British woman was at the centre of a child trafficking investigation yesterday after being arrested on the Greek holiday island of Cephalonia and accused of abducting a baby.

In a case which highlights the growing trade in children for adoption in the region, police believe the 41-year-old woman, who has not been named, snatched the seven-month-old girl from her Romanian gypsy mother during adoption negotiations in Athens.

It has been claimed the Briton, who was posing as a Polish nanny, had discussed a price of €14,000 (£9,385) in return for the child. If convicted she faces up to 15 years in prison.

The two women were shopping in a supermarket for food and clothes last Tuesday when it is claimed the woman snatched the infant and ran away. The hand over was due to take place in Athens' Omonia square.

The child's 16-year-old mother has also been detained on charges of illegally attempting to sell her child after she went to police.

She told police she decided to report the alleged abduction because the child's father did not know she had travelled to Greece to sell their baby. He thought she was there to beg - which she said she had done several times in the past. She said she had been in the country since the beginning of December and claimed half of the money would have gone to her cousin.

According to reports, the Briton returned to Cephalonia, where she had been working as a waitress during the summer tourist season. One official said she has a younger boyfriend on the island and allegedly stole the baby in order to keep the relationship going.

"She was apparently driven to this desperate act by her love for a local man," said Constantinos Zachar-opoulos, a spokesman for the police. "This is an unprecedented case that highlights the whole business of baby snatching and smuggling in our country."

The authorities on Cephalonia became aware of the incident when the British woman abandoned the child at a local hospital.

Officials became suspicious when she could not produce any identification for the baby. She tried to persuade them that she had given birth in the UK and returned to Greece with her child, but eventually admitted taking her, Mr Zacharopoulos said. She had shown no signs of being pregnant before she went, he added.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman confirmed that a British national was arrested in Cephalonia following the alleged abduction of a child in Athens. She said that the woman would be appearing before a public prosecutor in Athens.

The case follows a number of arrests of Greek doctors and medical staff in recent years in connection with baby smuggling. Earlier this year a number of pregnant Bulgarian women were shipped to the country by a gang waiting for them to give birth. Girls reportedly sell for €10,000 (£6,729) while boys can cost up to €225,000 (£151,416).

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