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Investigating trafficking

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 11:10 UK time, Friday, 27 July 2007

Last night the Ten O'Clock News exposed a gang selling children within the European Union.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoThe organised criminal behind it provided our team with a number of options - all girls under five, one as young as 18 months. He boasted about how he had tried and tested routes into the UK. We told him we had had problems adopting a child in the UK - but he wasn't bothered to find out more, and it is clear that most of the children supplied by gangs end up as domestic slaves or in the sex trade.

It was truly shocking to see a man who saw children as commodities - but it was tragic to see families (often living in grinding poverty) prepared to sell their child. One grandfather wanted us to buy a girl without the mother's knowledge.

We decided to investigate this area for a number of reasons. There were a lot of theories that Madeleine McCann could have been abducted by a gang hoping to sell her, and we'd seen Home Office figures suggesting that at least 330 children were sold to people in the UK between 2005 and 2006 (of course they're just the ones the authorities know about).

What became clear is that selling children is a real business - but its roots are in poverty, and abduction is rare. Families are prepared to sell their children without knowing their destination because they want money. Take a look at Sangita Myska's piece (click here) and you will see people with a standard of living that would normally be associated with the developing world, not the European Union.

There were of course major concerns for the safety of the children we showed last night. I want to assure you that we took that incredibly seriously - working very closely with our editorial policy department to make sure that we did not encourage criminal activity or put children in danger. As soon as we knew who the children were we alerted the authorities.

Three people have been detained and the Bulgarian authorities assure us that they are doing all they can for the children. But the sad reality is that people are willing to supply children to a demanding sex trade.


  • 1.
  • At 11:47 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

This report was totally ruined by the completely unnecessary and unwarranted addition of ridiculous music over the top, like a cheap ITV docu-drama reconstruction. Why was this done ?

Aren't there any guidelines which govern this ?

What next ? Playing the 'Jaws' theme as the bullock 'Shambo' is led to the slaughter ?

Children are young precious, prized treasures. Their innocence and vulnerability should be protected from child molesters at all costs. Anyone caught defiling and abusing children should be given the maximum punishment and be placed on a permanent pedophile sex offenders register. Any other way is too lenient.This menace has to be nipped in the bud Any milder punishment will not deter hardened child molesters.Society has a responsibility to protect children. Parents and school authorities have to be vigilant all the time.

  • 3.
  • At 03:32 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • larry coppelman wrote:

I saw the expose on the Bulgarian criminal done as a hidden camera operation.
It showed at one time along a road prostitutes plying their trade and owned by the man in question.
This was via BBC America on Direct TV our source here.
It was followed in the break by a slot for a BBC produced feature,that is at this moment still being slipped in ad nauseaum.
Hotel Babylon is touted as a hotel in London where all your sexual desires are part of the service.
The theme is that you can get it all by staying there.
Young women offering their bodies for money.
As the voice over throatily says,the only thing better than staying there is working there.
The young lady in the bathtub pouts in heat ,we are a 5 star htel you know. she says to the camera.
Are you at the BBC no better than the Bulgarian pimp you so secretly filmed.
Is not the very act of having a hotel AKA brothel illegal in the UK.
Are not these women so eagerly offered just a glamourization of a trade that you condem in some impoverished society
Are you suggesting that is is glamourous and OK in london but not Sofia.
You truly should examine your whole operation,it makes no sense to me and I wonder how many young women would be tempted by this wonderful hotel life.

  • 4.
  • At 04:47 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • sidney carton wrote:

On the strength of the information contained in the self-congratulating articles the BBC splashed over its website, its investigation has exposed next to nothing. It all sounds more like a con-job (obviously, aimed at fleecing your intrepid undercover investigator) than actual trafficking on the part of the Bulgarian man and his accomplices). Since the "investigation" was called off at the most crucial moment there's not a scap of evidence it's the latter rather than the former. This certainly is what "Harry" will claim and, no doubt, get off the hook. Sadly, given the poor quality of this "investigation" and the spin the BBC's putting on it nevertheless, one senses that - in the light of recent scandals undermining the BBC's credibility - this is more of a PR exercise designed to ingratiate general public with tabloid-style sensationalism.

A quick note for Larry, lest you be confused- Hotel Babylon is a fictional drama series.

Of course, I think you already know that and are making a statement about the moral content of BBC Dramas. And you're welcome to do so, but I really don't see the problem with distinguishing between mildly titilating fiction (never actually seen Babylon, mind) with harsh documented fact.

We've got the "War on Drugs", declared by President Nixon the Bad in 1971 - the main effects of which seem to have been to spread ever more easily-available drugs, in ever-expanding variety, throughout the globe, increasingly to glorify drug-abuse in popular culture, and to enrich enormous numbers of drug traffickers and pushers.

We've got the "War on Terror", declared by President Bush the Lesser in 2001 - the main effects of which seem to have been to spread hatred for the West throughout the globe, enormously to damage and devalue the Western ideals of liberal democracy, and human rights, and to make horrific, devastating, terrorist attacks on Western countries and our allies seem increasingly inevitable.

Can we ever hope to see a non-counter-productive "War on" the super-organised criminals, who pose at least as big a threat to our societies and futures as the terrorists? When are we going to see the targetted assassinations, the detention without trial, and the coercive interrogation of drug barons and drug-pushers, modern slave-traders and slave-holders, child-sex-merchants, and other such evildoers?

  • 7.
  • At 05:17 PM on 29 Jul 2007,
  • Denis wrote:

I live in Bulgaria and sights like seeing girls standing by the side of the road are common. Prostitution is not legal here but it is tolerated by the police, it doesn't take a genius to work out that they are involved in some way or other. You may also ask why it takes the BBC to find this guy call Harry and what he is doing - the reason is the same as above. The chief of police in Varna has said that the BBC made this up and have already apologised to him - I doubt it, he is just embarrassed that he's been found out doing nothing about something he knew was happening on his patch.
If the BBC are ever short of something to report they will find plenty of similar things to this in Bulgaria. One thing for instance is that there have been over 150 high profile murders on the streets but not one person has been caught or imprisoned. There must be a good story there.

  • 8.
  • At 07:37 PM on 29 Jul 2007,
  • GUY FOX wrote:

A species that devours its young is doomed to extinction.

  • 9.
  • At 08:29 PM on 29 Jul 2007,
  • Alexander Angelov wrote:

It seem BBC it is not so deeply in love with Bulgaria. And Britain too, it seems...
God knows why...
Interestingly, many british citizens are bulgarians now - something I do admire! Let Briatin meet Bulgaria! Why not?
But, please, why that harsh, cold and always judgemantal way of looking upon Bulgaria?
Always ready to look for and find something wrong!

Well, Bulgaria it is far not "The perfect country", but which one it is?
"Harry" is bulgarian (from a bulgarian turkish minority, but that is another story...) as much as Harry is british, german, english or norwegian!
What do I mean?

How about the huge number of european sex turists travelling to Thailand every year? How about them and the sexual practisies with underage children?
They are often britons, germans, nerwegians and others...
Why BBC don't turn the Tv or the hidden cameras in that direction too?
Do it in Bulgaria, no problem! But don't miss to have a look into our own backyards as well, dearest!
Thank to BBC - Norway from 3-4 days (lack of other news, or...?) is repeating again and again and again for a million and one times that "Harry" said he have sold children in Norway too...
No evidence about that, but lets talk! The hell - that's the others!
The Bulgarians in this case! What an ease!
And we? Oh! We are simply angels!
Skandinavia loves that!(Seems Britain too) - Expanding other peoples mistakes to a colossal proportions and talkin about that till the end of time!
Just for the record - 2 mounts ago in Thailand was arrested a Norwegian man who have had sex with children age between 3 an 12 and sold them after to other birds of that kind - germans, dutch and others?
Norway talked about that - as usual - only for half a day!!!!
Since then - nothing more about the case! Forgotten! Hidden! Unpleasant truths about orselves - not good to talk about!
Where are you, BBC in that case?

Where is BBC when people get killed in Skandianvia by the neofascist?
Where is BBC when the police in Norway kills innocent asylum seekers and everything is hidden and desided under the table? The people don't even hear about that because it comes as a short mesage on TV, something like " It just happened", nothing much to say and just forget about..."
Where is BBC then?
In Bulgaria!
It is easier!
Lets choose one we can always wash our not so very clean hands with... and use one country as a soap, water and a hand-towel!

Thank you; BBC!

My best regards BBC!

Alexander Angelov, Norway

  • 10.
  • At 09:15 PM on 29 Jul 2007,
  • Jo Miller wrote:

According to the Bulgarian press, Hassan Ahmed (the so called Baby seller that was arrested) was released from prison due to lack of evidence.

Furthermore the journalist could face questioning by the police, because it is a criminal offence for anyone to offer money for a baby in Bulgaria.

This story is the sort of gutter press journalism one would expect from the tabloid press, not the BBC. I'm sure if they had offered money for an alien from Mars, they could have found someone to do this. Basically, they've been taken for a ride.

  • 11.
  • At 01:09 PM on 30 Jul 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

If the BBC wants to investigate such things, I don't have a problem with that. However, I do find it deeply troubling that these allegations are then broadcast before anyone is convicted of anything. Shouldn't the information be passed on in confidence to the police, and the film shown (if at all) after the trial?

I can't help thinking that showing such a film before any criminal trial has taken place is highly irresponsible.

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