Nine people, including a Romanian woman, have been arrested in Crete for establishing an international network for the trafficking of exploited individuals used for illegal egg harvesting or as surrogates, according to the Greek media. Dozens of young women from Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, Albania, Bulgaria, and Georgia have been identified in Greece as victims of trafficking, and many of them are pregnant. The price for a baby ranged between 70,000 and 120,000 euros, and the clients were childless couples who didn’t meet the requirements for in vitro fertilization, same-sex couples, or single men.
According to the European Center for Legal Education and Research, which, along with INTERPOL, contributed to exposing the network, the members of this group are accused of at least ten criminal offenses: forming and joining an organized criminal group, human trafficking, facilitating illegal adoption of a minor, law violations regarding assisted medical reproduction, crimes against the family, deceiving patients with false medical procedures, fraud, forgery of public documents, physical harm, and violations of medication-related laws.
The staff at a clinic in Crete is being investigated due to suspicions that they operated as a front and intermediaries for illegal adoptions. Among the 9 arrested is a well-known 73-year-old gynecologist from Chania, who was leading the criminal group, along with other doctors, auxiliary staff members, a woman from Romania, and two women from Georgia. Two other women from Moldova are being internationally pursued, while investigative efforts are ongoing to establish the extent of criminal activities.
The organized criminal group recruited brokers who, in turn, were asked to recruit young women from abroad and transport them to Crete, where they were exploited for illegal egg harvesting and as surrogate mothers. The group acted as intermediaries in illegal baby adoptions in exchange for significant sums of money, systematically deceiving the victims by falsely claiming that they had undergone an embryo transfer procedure.
The young women were kept in 14 known buildings, in a confined and controlled environment, where they became pregnant and then, for a fee, gave birth to the babies.
By exploiting the young women, the clinic met the demands of clients from around the world, including childless couples, single men, or same-sex couples who did not meet the legal requirements for in vitro fertilization. The majority of their customers came from Greece, Italy, Turkey, and some Balkan states.
To achieve their goal, members of the group committed a series of criminal acts by creating false supporting documents to obtain court orders for individuals who did not meet the legal requirements. In cooperation with other clinics, medical laboratories, and doctors, they also falsified medical documents, birth certificates, and other administrative documents. In cases involving parents from countries where the process of obtaining a child through surrogacy was prohibited, the criminal group assisted in declaring the births as international adoptions.
The organized criminal group's income from each surrogate mother ranged between 70,000 and 100,000 euros, reaching up to 120,000 euros in some cases, resulting in a net profit of at least 70%. The brokers received between 3,000 to 5,000 euros for each surrogate mother they brought in, along with a monthly supervision fee ranging from 300 to 600 euros until the babies were born.
Greek authorities estimated that as of December 2022, at least 182 cases of exploitation had been recorded, but evidence suggests that the network had been active since 2021.