A Bulgarian couple is in custody in Germany on suspicion of involvement in a human trafficking ring that allegedly brought pregnant women to Greece, where the babies were born and then sold to traffickers.
The 58-year-old man and his 51-year-old wife are suspected of having recruited at least nine poor pregnant women from Bulgaria to go to Greece as part of the trafficking operation, according to authorities in Germany. They were detained last week in Neunkirchen, a town near Germany's border with France.
Bulgarian authorities had issued a European arrest warrant for the couple, who are now in custody awaiting extradition.
They were indicted in February along with their son for "participation in an organized crime group for trade in newborn babies on the territory of Greece," Bulgarian prosecutors said in a statement on May 5. Their son is already under arrest in Bulgaria.
The three were accused of recruiting pregnant women from across Bulgaria to travel to neighboring Greece to give birth and sell their newborn babies to intermediaries for the equivalent of between $3,000 and $4,300. Mothers usually received only a fraction of the amount, with the larger portion pocketed by the traffickers.
The Greek partners of the gang are suspected to be part of an international baby trafficking network, the Bulgarian prosecutors added.
If found guilty the couple and their son could face jail sentences of between five and 15 years.
Greece has become a common destination for baby trafficking operations because stringent conditions for adoption have encouraged many parents seeking a baby to turn to illegal alternatives.
Although the waiting time for a legal adoption in Greece was reduced in a 2018 law, the illegal networks persist.