US Baby Broker Blames Social Affairs Ministry

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.

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