French man, Indian woman booked for taking infants out of the country with fake documents; cops say it’s part of a larger scam
Posted On Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 03:44:18 AM
The Mumbai Police is searching for a 22-year-old woman believed to be the key in a large scam involving the trafficking of infants from India to countries where commercial surrogacy is illegal.
Jennifer, a former call-centre employee and a resident of Chembur, has been on the run for almost a month after cops found that she had approached immigration authorities posing as the partner of two separate French nationals within a three-month period.
In both cases, she had claimed to be the mother of twins, who she said were the result of her relationship with the Frenchmen she was accompanying.
Cops now believe that she is an agent in a thriving racket involving local gangs, civic officials, and medical professionals.
The scam came to light when Fredric Morin, a 42-year-old accountant, came to the Immigration department with his partner Jennifer and two six-month-old kids, a girl and a boy, asking for an NOC to relocate to France with the children.
All his documents were complete, including a BMC-issued birth certificate of the children, which listed Fredric and Jennifer as the parents. During the interview, however, one of the officers suspected that he had seen Jennifer somewhere not too long ago.
“A police officer felt he may have seen Jennifer before. He thought she had come to the Bureau a few months ago as the wife of another French national,” an official involved in the case told Mumbai Mirror.
The officer took it upon himself to go through the papers of other such relocation cases submitted over the last several months. He discovered that Jennifer, whose photograph was kept in their files, had come to them with another Frenchman, claiming to be the mother of his twins, only a few months ago.
While the authorities let Fredric and Jennifer go, they started verifying both sets of papers, only to find glaring similarities. In both cases, the children had been born at Hiranandani Hospital, were relocating within months of their birth, and Jennifer had been listed as their mother.
Fredric was called in for an interrogation, in which he admitted that the children were born through surrogacy, which is illegal in his country, and said that Jennifer was just helping him out.
He told the officers that soon after the children were born in December last year, he had applied for passports at the French Embassy in Mumbai. His request, however, was denied on suspicion that the children may have been delivered by a surrogate mother.
Following this, Fredric went back to France and filed a case against his government for denying the children passports, and the local court directed the French government to issue passports to the children. Having thought that the battle was won, he was just completing the final formality of getting an NoC from Indian immigration when the fraud was exposed.
Since surrogacy is not illegal in India, Fredric was booked only for presenting false documents. After four days in custody, he was granted bail, and even managed to fly back to France with the children on the strength of the French court’s order.
Jennifer, meanwhile, managed to escape before the Azad Maidan police could nab her. Almost a month later, she is still absconding.
Fearing that this is part of a much larger scam, the police are now investigating the circumstances leading to the birth of the children, and their eventual exit to France.
“It’s a case that involves misleading birth certificates issued by someone in the BMC, the possible involvement of medical professionals, and the larger issue of Mumbai emerging as a surrogacy tourism hub, particularly for countries where it is illegal,” an officer said.
“We are probing foreign nationals taking advantage of our slack surrogacy laws. What they did is not possible without the help of a local gang, middle-men, and hospital staff,” he added.
When contacted, Clementine Gravier, the press attaché to the French Consul General in Mumbai, did not send a case-specific reply. “Surrogacy is strictly prohibited in France. French nationals who come to India to recourse to surrogacy put themselves in serious difficulties when they wish to return to France with the children. On humanitarian grounds, the consulate may issue travel documents to such children, on a case to case basis. Besides, where children are concerned, the consulate verifies their living conditions and their health.”
According to the Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction (ISAR), there were approximate 600 surrogacy cycles in India in 2009, and the number went up to 1,000 in 2010.
Mumbai has maximum number of surrogacy clinics, in which a couple has to pay anywhere between Rs 12-15 lakh for the entire process.