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Geneticist's sentence reduced in adoption ruling

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 01 January 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:10
  1. Carl Kovac
  1. Budapest

    After an appeal the Superior Court of Budapest has reduced the sentence given to the prominent Hungarian geneticist Endre Czeizel, who was found guilty in a lower court last year on four counts of being an accessory in a transatlantic infant adoption scheme, in violation of Hungary's Family Act (BMJ 2002;325:238 3 August).

    On 18 December the Superior Court dismissed three of the charges against Dr Czeizel, reduced the fourth to a violation of Hungary's adoption code, and fined him 200 000 forints (£540; $950; €760). Three of eight codefendants who were found guilty at the earlier trial also had their sentences reduced or dismissed.

    A July 2002 trial in Budapest Metropolitan Court culminated in Dr Czeizel being sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years. Six codefendants were given suspended sentences of one to three years, on jail terms ranging from three months to two years, and two were given reprimands.

    Dr Czeizel was originally accused of encouraging pregnant women—most of them impoverished and from the countryside—to give up their newborn babies for adoption in the United States in exchange for a trip to that country, where they would enjoy a few weeks of high quality accommodation, give birth, and receive cash for relinquishing their infants.

    Dr Czeizel's co-conspirator, prosecutors said, was Marianna Gáti, a Hungarian with American citizenship currently living in the United States. Prosecutors alleged that Ms Gáti, together with social workers and lawyers, set up an organisation to arrange adoptions of Hungarian babies for American couples, charging them tens of thousands of dollars for her services.

    Dr Czeizel steadfastly denied receiving any money for arranging adoptions. However, during the lower court's sentencing hearing the judge read a letter from Ms Gáti to Dr Czeizel's personal secretary saying, “$500 is yours and $1000 to Dr C.”

    In January Ms Gáti pleaded guilty in a Californian court to one count of the federal offence of wire fraud (using interstate communication facilities to carry out a scheme to defraud), in connection with allegedly arranging the sale of as many as 30 Hungarian infants, some for as much as $80 000.

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