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Africa

French NGO leaders sentences reduced in Darfur orphans scam

media Emilie Lelouche, Eric Breteau during their trial in Chad, 21 Decembre 2007. Thomas Samson/Getty Images

Two French NGO leaders were given suspended jail sentences for trying to to smuggle 103 Chadian children to France in 2007 on Friday. Eric Breteau, the president of Arche de Zoé (Zoe's Ark), and his partner, Emilie Lelouch, were found guilty of fraud and carrying out illegal adoptions. 

Appealing against a three-year sentence, with a minimum two years' imprisonment, Breteau and Lelouch succeeded in overturning a guilty verdict for attempting to ease entry of minors in irregular situation in France and received a lighter sentence.

The judge convicted them of fraud and being intermediaries for illegal adoption for their role in a scandal that broke in 2007 when Arche de Zoé members were caught in eastern Chad trying to flee to France with 100 children.

The NGO claimed that the children were Darfur orphans but many of them in fact came  from Chadian border regions and most of them still had at lesat one parent.

A Chadian court sentenced Breteau and Lelouch to eight years' forced labour but the sentence was commuted by president Idriss Deby and they were sent back to France to face trial.

Both Breteau and Lelouch have always said that they did not intend to do any harm. 

Alain Péligat, the NGO's logistics officer, was found not guilty by the Parisian court.

"I've always said that I went there to do good. [...] And my daughters here in France, they never stopped believing it," he told France 24 TV while leaving the court.
 

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