Radio Dabanga (Hilversum)

12 February 2013

Mali: French Couple Found Guilty of 'Darfur Orphans' Hoax

Photo: Fred Noy
Children in Sudan (file photo).

Paris — Following a trial last December in Paris, a French couple was found guilty for attempting to smuggle 103 children in 2007 to France for adoption under the allegations they were orphans from Darfur.

Eric Breteau and his girlfriend Emilie Lelouch, who ran an NGO called Arche de Zoé, were given a two-year sentence in jail by a French court on Tuesday.

They were arrested by the Chadian police at the Abeche airport in the east of the country while trying to board an airplane with the children.

The suspects claimed to want to save the "orphans" from the deteriorating situation in Darfur, but as it appeared, the children were from Chad and had at least one living parent.

Four other defendants were given six month and one year suspended sentences, and the NGO was fined 100.000 euros and dissolved according to Tuesday's ruling.

Breteau and Lelouch were said in court to have exploited families who took part in internet discussion forums on adoption and suggested that that was a possibility in the long term, RFI reports.

At the time of the arrest, six French citizens were sentenced to eight years of forced labor in Chad for kidnapping and were required to pay 6.3 million euros to the children's families. However, they were pardoned by the Chadian president and sent back to France in 2008.

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