On 23 September 2019, Greek law enforcement authorities, supported by Europol, dismantled an organised crime group involved in the trafficking of human beings (selling ova), illegal adoption and money laundering.
€25 000 to €28 000 per illegal adoption
Active since 2016, the criminal network recruited vulnerable pregnant women from Bulgaria. The group transported them to Thessaloniki, Greece where they were placed under medical observation and sent to private hospitals to deliver their children. The newborns were then illegally adopted for between €25 000 and €28 000 each. The fees included paying the biological mother, all legal expenses, hospitalisation, delivery itself and the members of the criminal group. Some of the mothers brought to Greece were also used as surrogates.
The same criminal group was also involved in ovum trafficking. The criminals recruited donors in Greece, mainly from Bulgaria, Georgia and Russia. The women were then transferred to Thessaloniki to undergo a series of fertility treatments to increase the number of ova.
At least half a million euros in profit
During the action day, officers from the Hellenic Police (Ελληνική Αστυνομία) conducted 12 house searches and arrested 12 individuals suspected of belonging to a criminal group. The investigation led to the identification of 10 more members of the criminal organisation. In total, the case involved 66 individuals, including a lawyer, an obstetrician-gynaecologist and employees of private clinics. Officers seized €13 000 in cash, three cars, mobile phones and electronic devices, various documents related to adoption and surrogate procedures, birth certificates and bank statements.
It is estimated that the criminal activity generated at least €500 000. The money was laundered through financial institutions, luxury goods and properties. Europol conducted operational and financial analysis, which confirmed the involvement of individuals and corroborated other evidence collected in the investigation.
Europol supported the investigation since the early stages by facilitating secure information exchange, providing operational and analytical support, and intelligence and financing one operational meeting. One Europol expert was also deployed in Greece on the action day to perform live cross-checks of operational data against Europol’s databases.