The legal defense team of Lauryn Galindo last week sought to redirect her culpability in crimes to the Ministry of Social Affairs as well as individuals who competed with or assisted in her baby adoption business, according to a US court document.
The defense, arguing for a lenient sentence for Galindo, offered a portrait of the disgraced adoption facilitator as a humanitarian whose work became criminal through psychological stress and contact with corrupt Cambodian ministries and associates.
Galindo was sentenced Friday to 18 months in a US prison for her part in a lucrative scheme that, until 2001, had taken children from Cambodian families, fraudulently tagged them as orphans and matched them with adoptive parents abroad, mostly in the US.
According to her own confession contained in court documents, Galindo said she funneled a $3,500 fee from each set of adoptive parents to ministry officials through Ouch Syphalla, also known as Mr Pol, who today is president of his own orphanage under The Palm Tree Foundation.
The Social Affairs Ministry “had as a common practice a policy of refusing to move paperwork without the payment of money,” reads the court document—a transcript of the defense’s argument.
“As a result, Ms Galindo and other facilitators…routinely requested money from the adoptive families that went directly to the ministries, though there were no formal government fees….
“In Ms Galindo’s case, she would give the money to Mr Pol who would in turn provide it to various officials in order to get the necessary paperwork,” the documents read.
Ouch Syphalla denied that charge Wednesday and said he was merely a taxi driver hired by Galindo.
“I know nothing about this,” he said.
Galindo is listed as a sponsor of The Palm Tree Foundation on its Web site.
Nhim Thauth, the Social Affairs Ministry’s longtime secretary of state, also denied knowledge of corruption in the adoption process. “About providing money to the ministry, I don’t know about that,” Nhim Thauth said. “I tried to find out many times, but there is no proof.”
Nhim Thauth is now leading efforts with UN Children’s Fund to draft laws relevant to Cambodia reopening international adoptions. Local rights group Licadho has repeatedly appealed for Cambodian authorities to open its own probe into former Galindo associates still working in the government and the country’s orphanages.