British parents who travelled to Nigeria for fertility treatment and were duped into believing that the mother had given birth to a girl, have been permitted to keep the child.
The child is now two years old and has been living with the couple in London after she was brought back with them from Nigeria as an infant.
This week Mrs Justice Hogg said the couple could be named as the child’s guardians after analysing welfare issues at hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
Mrs Justice Hogg found that the parents had been victims of a suspicious fertility treatment which involved the mother undergoing “herbal treatments” at a clinic in Laos, Nigeria. The woman had been convinced by the fraudsters running the clinic that she had fallen pregnant and given birth to a baby girl whilst sedated. The treatment the women received is said to have cost around £4,500.
The parents had been victims of an elaborate scam and the baby girl was found not to share DNA with either of the parents.
The results of the DNA test set in motion a process involving social services and the police. Mrs Justice Hogg said social workers had been “deeply suspicious” that the couple had wrongfully attempted to pass the child off as their daughter and had “concocted a story”.
However, police did not pursue the case any further and the family court ruled that the couple can be named as the child’s guardians.
This is not the first time that the courts have encountered issues arising from fertility scams in Nigeria.
In 2012, Mr Justice Coleridge raised concerns about ”desperate childless parents” being caught up in ”strange” baby-selling scams in Nigeria. These scams involve women travelling to Nigeria seeking fertility treatment and then being sold unwanted babies after fraudsters trick them into thinking they have become pregnant and given birth.
The case has raised concerns over child trafficking
Some charities have criticised the judgement for encouraging illegal child trafficking.
Andy Elvin, chief executive of Children and Families Across Borders, told the BBC: “These unscrupulous people will exploit people for vast amounts of money.”
“Behind every one of these children lies an actual birth mother. She has been coerced, she may have been kidnapped or raped.
“These children are not given up willingly.”
Mr Elvin went on to say that he was concerned that other desperate couples might be encouraged to travel to Nigeria and bring children back to the UK in the hope that they would be allowed to keep them.