Two French charity workers have been sentenced to two years in prison for illegally trying to fly 103 African children from Chad to France in 2007.
Eric Breteau, who founded the French charity Zoe’s Ark, and his colleague Emilie Lelouch had been tried in absentia but appeared in the Paris court for Tuesday’s verdict, and were immediately arrested.
“A lot has been said about the motives in terms of humanitarian commitment and the will to help the children to get them a better life, but basically I can say that the first and the only motive is simple greed.“
– Acheikh Ibn Oumar, the former Chadian minister of foreign affairs
The children were said to have been orphans from Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region, but turned out to be mainly from Chad and with families of their own.
In a case that shocked France, the defendants were arrested in Chad as they tried to load the children on to a plane bound for France in 2007.
They were sentenced later that year to eight years’ hard labour by a court in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, but repatriated to France after receiving a pardon from Chad’s president in March 2008.
Zoe’s Ark is not the first supposedly well-intentioned aid project to get it wrong.