Thessaloniki, Greece: Greek police said Wednesday they had broken up a network trafficking babies and even eggs for fertilisation from mainly Bulgarian women, making arrests after raids on private clinics.
Police also arrested women from Georgia and from the Greek Roma community during the raids in the northern port city of Thessaloniki. The women were there either to give birth or to let the clinic take their eggs to sell on, police said.
Investigators had identified 22 cases of illegal adoption and 24 cases in which eggs were sold, a business that had brought in 500,000 euros ($550,000) since 2016, said police.
In Greece, families with fertility problems are frustrated with the slow pace of the legal adoption procedures - it can take up to five years.
Among the 12 people arrested was a doctor, a lawyer and two employees at the private clinics. But another 66 people are under investigation in the network, which is also suspected of money laundering.
The operation was run by a lawyer and a gynaecologist, said police.
"The candidate families for adoption gave between 25,000 and 28,000 euros to adopt a child," said Christos Dimitrakopoulos, the chief of police in Thessaloniki.
"This price covered money paid to the biological mother, the lawyer and the hospitalisation costs and the percentage paid to the network's middleman."
The donor mothers were paid between 4,000 and 5,000 euros to give birth.
In 2011, a Greek court prosecuted 10 Bulgarians and two Greek nationals for having brought 17 pregnant Bulgarian women into the country to sell their babies.