Officers of the Greek Organised Crime department have successfully dismantled a criminal organisation operating in Chania, Greece, involved in human trafficking and illegal adoptions of babies.

Two prosecutors are involved in the testimonies being collected. The first defendant to testify was a 73-year-old doctor and head of the controversial unit of assisted reproduction. Citizens expressing support for him rallied outside the courts.

On Saturday, Health Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis removed alternate professor of gynaecology (University of Athens) Nikolaos Vrachnis as head of the National Authority on Assisted Reproduction. The Authority is responsible for overseeing all assisted reproduction facilities and approving their licensing.

According to the police file, the Chania-based Unit of Medically Assisted Reproduction and Bank of Cryogenic Maintenance is allegedly involved in the network of baby selling.

The investigation, spanning eight months from December 2022, led to the arrest of eight members of the organisation.

The network had been active for a decade in multiple regions, including Crete, Thessaloniki, Attica, Agrinio, Ekaterini, and Trikala.

Among those apprehended are individuals with important roles within the organisation:

-A 73-year-old gynecologist-obstetrician and Clinical director

-A 44-year-old Scientific Director – Clinical Embryologist PhD

-A 44-year-old secretary and manager of Surrogacy programs

-A 37-year-old Romanian citizen office worker

-A 41-year-old biologist – assistant embryologist

-A 28-year-old midwife

-A 41-year-old office worker at a therapeutic clinic in Chania

-A 38-year-old woman

The charges against the arrested individuals include human trafficking, mediation in the adoption of minors, purchase and sale of genetic material or fertilised eggs, falsification of medical file data for the purpose of selling genetic material, forgery exceeding €120,000, false medical certificates intended for judicial use, disruption of family order (including fictitious marriages), and fraud combined with simple bodily harm.

The operation revolved around the 73-year-old gynaecologist who allegedly orchestrated the trafficking scheme. Women in difficult financial situations were targeted by “brokers” and convinced to sell their eggs or act as surrogate mothers. These women were brought from countries like Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Georgia, and Albania to Chania. Here, they were kept under controlled conditions until the process was complete, without arousing suspicion.

The investigation revealed that in certain cases, the same recruited women were used both for egg trading and as surrogate mothers.

It is alleged that the operation involved two stages. In the first stage, couples or single men, or same-sex couples seeking to have a child, were paired with women who underwent special treatments, serving as egg donors. The second stage involved handing over the child to the intended families, with the organisation taking extensive measures to conceal their actions, including falsification of medical records, laboratory tests, medical certificates, and more.

The surrogacy programs were priced at €70,000 – €100,000, excluding monthly compensation for surrogate mothers.

Particularly severe cases recorded costs reaching up to €120,000.

Since the investigation’s commencement in December 2022, the following numbers were recorded:

-Eggs were removed from 71 different women.

-98 women acted as surrogate mothers, falling victim to human trafficking.

-13 cases of illegal incidents related to the process of obtaining a child through surrogacy programs.

-14 houses were secured by the criminal organization to temporarily accommodate surrogate mothers – victims of human trafficking in Chania.

The case has sent shockwaves through the community, revealing the alleged grim operations of the criminal organisation involved in human trafficking and illegal baby adoptions.

Many Greek Australian families and diaspora Greeks from around the world have resorted to Greece and especially Crete for IVF treatments and adoption options in recent years.

*With AMNA, ERT, Ta Nea