BBC Exposes Bulgarian Baby Trade

Babies are being illegally offered for sale in Bulgaria with the promise of smuggling them abroad, an undercover BBC News team has discovered.

A self-confessed human trafficker in the resort city of Varna showed off toddlers with a selling price of 60,000 euros (£40,000) each.

The BBC sting was stopped before any children were actually sold.

Bulgaria's interior ministry says it has detained three people, including one who said he was a trafficker.

"Harry", as the smuggler called himself, was led to believe that the baby was destined for a shady British businessman whose criminal record barred him from legal adoption routes.

He never asked what wold happen to the child who, he said, could be smuggled to London via routes he had used in the past to traffic prostitutes.

For an extra fee, he said he would personally deliver a child to London.

A BBC TV Ten O'Clock News team which set up the sting spent more than a month in Varna, lulling Harry into revealing his criminal activities.

Bulgaria has been under strong international pressure to crack down on organized crime since joining the European Union earlier this year.

Brought by their parents

Harry said he had previously smuggled children to Germany and Norway and boasted of trafficking prostitutes from Bulgaria to Spain, the Netherlands and Ireland.

The BBC team covertly filmed some of the children he was offering.

The toddlers were brought to street cafes by relatives or other adults, and seemed oblivious to what was going on around them.

It appears that their families were complicit and there was no evidence of them being coerced.

Some spoke of being unable to afford to look after them.

Parents can also be prosecuted under a new Bulgarian law for selling their child.

Police surveillance

After being alerted by the BBC, the Bulgarian authorities passed the details of the BBC investigation to social services and police in Varna.

The criminal gang involved is now under surveillance.

Police say they need to gather their own evidence in order to mount a prosecution but are ready to take "any appropriate action".

The illegal traffic in Bulgarian babies is not a new phenomenon but previous cases involved pregnant women smuggled abroad to give birth and hand over their infants.

France convicted nine Bulgarians and dozens of French people in February over the sale of babies to French Roma (Gypsy) couples.

The couples are said to have paid up to $10,000 (£5,000) for each child.

'More severe punishments'

Chris Beddoe, of anti-child exploitation group ECPAT, said the UK needed to update legislation to tackle trafficking.

She said: "We have a range of laws in the UK that primarily come under immigration crimes, for example the facilitation of illegal entry and passport fraud, that sort of thing, but the penalties for those charges are actually very small in comparison to the severity of human trafficking.

"It also doesn't recognize that these criminals are traffickers, or part of the trafficking chain, so we need to fill those gaps in our own legislation around human trafficking.

"We need to make sure we have high-level recognition that child trafficking, no matter whether they are babies, infants, or indeed older children, is a crime and needs to be punished severely."

After being contacted by the BBC the Bulgarian authorities alerted social services and police in Varna, passing on details of the BBC investigation.


Baby survives being buried alive

I found this story today in the BBC News and it broke my heart. Although this is not directly related to CSET it is a foundational factor. You can see that the stress of having many daughters and not feeling as though you can afford them (particularly if you don't have any sons) will drive you to desperate things.
This grandfather did the unthinkable - but many times it is allowing the girls to grow up and then selling their bodies into the sex industry.


[5 July 2007]

A two-day-old baby girl in India has survived after being buried alive in a field by her maternal grandfather in the south of the country.

The baby, who had apparently never been fed, was discovered by a farmer near a village some 150km south of Hyderabad.

He said he only spotted her because her tiny hand was sticking out of the soil.

Police say they have arrested the baby's grandfather, 52-year-old Abdul Rahman, after he confessed to trying to kill the newborn by burying her alive.

"I am yet to marry off four daughters and cannot take responsibility for a fifth one, even when she is only a granddaughter," Mr Rahman was quoted as telling police.

It was not immediately clear whether Mr Rahman's daughter, the mother of the baby, had given her consent for her child to be taken away.

The baby, who has not yet been named and weighs just 1.7kg, is being treated in a nearby hospital.

The practice of female foeticide and female infanticide does occur in some rural areas.

A girl child is often viewed as inferior to a boy and a bride's dowry can also cripple a family financially.

Government figures suggest that around 10 million girls have been killed by their parents - either in the womb or immediately after birth - over the past two decades.



USA: Court says just viewing child porn is not a crime

What is our world coming to? Why do we make such excuses for appalling behavior? Too many people are getting off the hook for behavior they know is unacceptable. We make the laws too light and give loopholes that are too easy for people to jump through.


[2 July 2007] - A US court has said the existence of child pornography images in the cache of a man's computer did not mean that man had committed a crime under state law. The Court of Appeals in Georgia has reversed the man's conviction.

A forensic computer analyst for the US Secret Service had testified in court that Edward Ray Barton's laptop computer had been used to view 106 images of child pornography on the internet.

Barton was convicted on 106 counts of the sexual exploitation of children and jailed. Under appeal, though, three judges in the state of Georgia ruled that Barton did not break the law, which says that a person must have knowing possession of the images.

The images were stored on the hard drive of the computer, but only in the cache, a local store of files accessed on the internet designed to speed up browsing. Those images are not readily accessible without special software which he did not have, said the Secret Service expert.

Knowing possession

The court said this could not count as a knowing possession of the files and that there was no evidence that Barton had consciously saved the files for later use.

Judge Yvette Miller said other cases had debated whether or not files had to be consciously saved in order for a crime to be committed.

"None of those decisions, however, found that a defendant may be convicted of possessing child pornography stored in his computer's temporary internet file folders, also known as cache files, absent some evidence that the defendant was aware those files existed," said Judge Miller in the court's opinion. She said in order to convict, the state had to show that a defendant took some action to save or download images, or that the defendant knew that the computer automatically saved files.

"There was no way that Barton could have learned of the cache files in the normal course of using his computer," said Judge Miller. "Nor did the state present any circumstantial evidence that would have allowed the jury to infer Barton's knowledge of these files, i.e. they did not show that Barton was an experienced or sophisticated computer user who would have been aware of this automatic storage process."


To read the whole article go here.