PARIS – Two French aid workers were convicted of fraud on Tuesday and sentenced to 2 years in prison for trying to bring 103 children from central Africa to France for adoption, claiming they were orphans from Darfur.
The Paris court also convicted Eric Breteau and Emilie Lelouch of the French charity Zoe's Ark of illegally acting as adoption intermediaries and attempting to bring foreign minors into the country. The two defendants were tried in absentia while living in South Africa, but they showed up for the verdict.
Four other Zoe's Ark members were convicted of trying to bring foreign minors into France, but given suspended sentences ranging from 6 months to a year.
The six workers were arrested in Chad in 2007 as they sought to put the children on a plane. An investigation there found they were from Chad, not neighboring Sudan's troubled Darfur region, and most were not orphans.
The case shocked the public in France and Chad and hurt diplomatic relations.
The workers were sentenced to eight years' forced labor in Chad for kidnapping. But they were later transferred to France and pardoned by Chad's president, clearing the way for the French trial.