Greek police dismantle network exploiting surrogate mothers


Southern Europe


Four newborn children have been taken care of, but their future is unknown. Photo AFP, Nikolay Doychinov

The Greek authorities dismantled a network allegedly exploiting women as surrogate mothers and egg donors. The clinic involved says it only wants to "help people."

Since December last year, Greek police documented 182 incidents in which women were exploited as surrogate mothers or egg donors. Eight suspects were arrested on Tuesday morning, 8 August, in a nationwide operation that focused on a fertility clinic on the Greek island of Crete. According to the authorities, the suspects were guilty of human trafficking and exploitation. While four have been released on conditions, the other four remain detained for the time being.

The suspects held leadership positions at the clinic in question. According to the authorities, others actively recruited "vulnerable foreign women" to donate eggs and make their wombs available for surrogacy. In some cases, eggs were harvested first, after which the women became surrogate mothers. Thirty of them were found pregnant in squalid living conditions.

According to the police, the clients come from all over the world, including heterosexual couples, gay couples and single men. They would spend between 70,000 and 100,000 euros for a child. According to the authorities, the profit would be around 70 per cent of the amount. Greek daily Ta Nea reports that surrogate mothers received about 300 to 600 euros monthly. "We needed money", they argue, saying that they had not realized the seriousness of the situation and the dangers they were putting themselves in.


According to the local news website cretalive.gr, four Georgian surrogate mothers recently gave birth to children. They are now in the neonatal ward of a hospital in Chania. A fifth birth is expected shortly.

Wish parents, meanwhile, are panicking. News channel Alpha TV reports that several parents are trying to force DNA tests through the courts to see if any of the four children is theirs. Permission for a test has now been granted; another is expected later this week. Other foreign parents have already arrived in Crete to seek redress at the clinic.


Meanwhile, the suspects stubbornly maintain that they only want to help people. The lawyer of the clinic's founder, a 73-year-old man, tells Ta Nea that his client is "convinced that the real story will come out soon. It will be different from what is circulating in the media now."

However, the Greek Health Ministry is not waiting for that investigation. Michalis Chrysochoidis, the health minister, fired the President of the National Authority for Assisted Reproduction. He oversees all assisted reproduction facilities in Greece and approves licences.


This is not the first time Greek authorities have tracked down a network using children as commodities for profit. For example, Ta Nea wrote about similar practices in 2019. According to Greekreporter.com, the Greek government has stepped up its efforts to combat human trafficking in the country in recent years.

Greece is one of the few countries that have regulated surrogacy. Altruistic deals are allowed if the surrogate mother does not receive more compensation than about 12,000 euros. Heterosexual couples and single women are eligible for this practice. Since 2014, it has also been possible for foreign couples to enter a route.



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