A charity worker and ‘evil child trader’ has been detained in Ukraine after he was caught red-handed seeking to take an 11-month-old baby abroad to ‘sell for organ transplants’.
The man, 43, had allegedly given a $1,000 downpayment to the boy’s mother, claiming he would ensure the boy was adopted in the EU to live in safety away from the war.
He offered the woman, from Zhytomyr, a total of $5,000 for the baby who he then intended to sell to traffickers for $25,000.
Pictures showed the man detained with a female accomplice at the Ukraine-Slovakia border as he intended to cross with the child.
While this boy was saved, it is suspected the man had previously sold three other children on the pretext of taking them out of war-torn Ukraine and finding them adoptive parents abroad.
The man, 43, had given a $1,000 USD downpayment to the boy’s mother, it was alleged
Armed Ukrainian soldiers and policemen detained the man
The man had allegedly offered the woman, from Zhytomyr, a total of $5,000 for the baby who he then intended to sell to traffickers for $25,000
The child in question hi-fives a soldier after being reunited with his mother
The detained man ‘had been looking for parents who were ready to sell their child for organs’, reported Ukrainian journalist Vitaliy Glagola.
‘Law enforcement officers have operational information that this was not for adoption to the EU, and the child was to have been sold to [illegal] organ transplanters.’
The mother of the child had alerted law enforcement, it was reported.
An operation by police, the SBU secret service and border guards detained him at the Malye Selmentsy frontier checkpoint.
The man was remanded in custody pending further investigation, while the rescued child was reunited with his mother.
The man is held under child trafficking laws, said a police spokesman, and faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted.
There have been repeated warnings in recent years of children from impoverished eastern Europe exported on the black market by gangs linked to organ transplants for wealthy clients, especially in the Middle East.
But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which sent millions of Ukrainian citizens fleeing across the border, presented an opportunity for human traffickers to prey on the most vulnerable of refugees.
Earlier in the war there were several reports of criminals targeting unaccompanied female refugees and children fleeing from Ukraine by promising them safe accommodation and free transport, posing as good Samaritans to lure them away from the safety of official checkpoints.
Charity workers on the Polish-Ukrainian border have warned that the traffickers are working alone and in gangs to kidnap the women and children who are an ‘easy target’.
Human traffickers were targeting Ukrainian women and children who fled Vladimir Putin’s bombs at Polish refugee camps, charities warned in the early days of the war in Ukraine
Ukrainian refugees at the Humanitarian Aid Center at the Ptak Warsaw Expo in Nadarzyn, near Warsaw, Poland, shortly after Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine
Refugees from Ukraine queue as they wait for further transport at the Medyka border crossing, after crossing at the Ukrainian-Polish border, southeastern Poland, on March 23
A girl sits next to a stuffed bear as refugees from Ukraine wait in the main railway station in Przemysl, southeastern Poland, near the Polish-Ukrainian border on Thursday
Karolina Wierzbińska, a coordinator at the human rights organisation Homo Faber in the Polish city of Lublin, said she has seen teams of people working together, or multiple couples, travelling to the Polish border and pretending to offer Ukrainian refugees rides in an effort to lure them into cars.
‘[We see teams] waiting for people arriving from Ukraine and pretending to offer rides or lodging to women distressed and exhausted from their journey,’ she said.
‘We’re also seeing multiple couples, typically a male and a female, having travelled to the border by car, attempting to lure women using similar tactics. We intervene in such cases by approaching the person acting suspiciously and asking them to register in our volunteer directory – in response to which they typically run away.’
Millions of Ukrainian refugees flooded into Poland in the weeks following Putin’s invasion leaving many Polish towns and cities on the border overwhelmed by the sheer number of people arriving and needing shelter, food, and medicines.
Missing Children Europe told the Guardian in the early weeks of the Ukraine war that unaccompanied minors were continuing to disappear at the borders.
‘There are so many children […] that we lost track of,’ said Aagje Ieven, secretary general of Missing Children Europe. ‘This is a huge problem, not just because it means they easily go missing, and are difficult to find, but also because it makes trafficking so easy.’