A judge today sentenced an Australian surrogacy broker to 18 months in prison for helping foreign adoptive parents connect with Cambodian women willing to carry their babies—the only criminal case the government pursued after banning the once-burgeoning trade.
Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, Tammy Davis-Charles, 49, shook her head a few times as Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Sor Linna read the verdict. He also ordered Davis-Charles to pay a fine of 4 million riel, or about $1,000.
Her two associates, Samrith Chakrya, 35, and Pech Rithy, 28, were each sentenced to one and a half years in prison and fined 2 million riel, or about $500.
The trio had been charged with falsifying documents and acting as intermediaries between adoptive parents and pregnant women. The charge carried a maximum sentence of two years.
They were arrested in November, just weeks after the government banned the previously unregulated surrogacy industry, which had moved to Cambodia after being outlawed in other Asian countries, including Thailand and Nepal.
Ms. Chakrya, a nurse she hired to help look after the surrogate mothers, sobbed throughout the half-hour hearing.
At a hearing last month, Ms. Davis-Charles had broken down as she described the toll the case had taken on her, saying she had lost 20 kilos and had cancer in her left eye. The mother of six said that her five-year-old twin boys, born via a surrogate in Thailand, did not see her coming home.
“I have lost everything,” she said.
Ms. Davis-Charles had been living in Thailand, where she founded Fertility Solutions PGD with her husband, Simon Davis, after leaving her native Australia.
During the trial, Ms. Davis-Charles claimed she was a minor player in a Cambodian surrogacy network, with a broker in Bangkok heading the operation and clients referred to her by the Fertility Clinic of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.
Prospective parents paid up to $50,000 to conceive a child through surrogacy, she told the court, for which she received $8,000 for her consultancy services. Cambodian surrogate mothers, who carried the babies, were paid about $10,000.
Exiting the courtroom this morning, Ms. Davis-Charles declined to comment before walking into her holding cell, where she put on sunglasses and could be seen crying and trying to shield her face.
Ms. Chakrya’s father, who declined to give his name, said his daughter should have been treated with more leniency. “I still believe that among the three, my daughter should have been given the lowest sentence,” he said.