A couple in Porto has been arrested on suspicion of running an illegal surrogacy service for Portuguese emigrés living abroad.
Four babies were sold, claims tabloid Correio da Manhã today, for €25,000 each.
The children are now living with their ‘families’ in France, Switzerland and Luxembourg, “accompanied by the authorities”.
“They will not be uprooted”, writes the paper. “At least not yet”.
The alleged ‘scam’ was brought to the notice of the authorities by neighbours who witnessed Brazilian Daniella Neto becoming pregnant four times between 2011 and 2017, but then learnt that she had lost the babies in ‘late miscarriages’.
The explanation, given the “level of lifestyle”, of both 41-year-old Neto and her partner, did not seem right.
“It caused suspicion in the neighbourhood”, said CM – to the extent that a subsequent pregnancy saw police brought in.
With the couple now well and truly under the spotlight, the investigation is moving on to identify others (intermediaries) that may be involved in the operation.
The father of all the children is believed to be Neto’s partner, a civil construction worker – thus DNA tests are ongoing to fully establish the four babies’ parentage.
What happens next, however, will be the real Catch 22. To remove the children from the parents that ‘bought them’ might make sense on paper, but could only traumatise the victims of this situation even further.
Says CM, the crime of people trafficking – which this alleged scam falls under – carries a five year maximum jail term.
If it is established that the children’s birth certificates were falsified, that might add to the penalties – but it still doesn’t immediately explain what should happen to the children, or the people who ‘bought’ them.
In a press conference in Porto yesterday, PJ director Norberto Martins said all the babies “were born in Portugal and in hospitals, but their birth certificates will have been falsified at least in terms of paternity”.
Surrogacy here is still “illegal”. In 2016 a law was passed, sanctioning surrogacy for no financial return in situations where normal births are impossible, but this was later vetoed by the Constitutional Court.
Nonetheless this year media reports announced the opening in Lisbon of Israeli company Tammuz that plans to “realise the dreams of becoming a biological mother or father for anyone who could pay between €40,000 to €80,000”.
Tammuz “joins other operations that operate in Portugal, but only online”, wrote Diário de Notícias.
Director Roy Nir said the “physical space in Lisbon would serve to make people “who have a lot of money and emotion involved” feel more confident and secure when starting the surrogacy process.