Croats charged with child trafficking in Zambia granted bail

NDOLA, Zambia (AP) — A magistrate in Zambia on Thursday granted bail to eight Croatian nationals charged with child trafficking.

Magistrate David Makalicha in Ndola, in the mineral-rich Copperbelt province, said the eight should each pay 20,000 Kwacha (about $1,000) bail and surrender their passports to the court.

The eight were named as Damir Magic, 44, Nadica Magic, 45, Zoran Subosic, 52, Azra Imamovic Subosic, 41, Ladislav Persic, 42, Aleksandra Persic, 40, Noah Kraljevic, 45, and Ivona Kraljevic, 46, when they first appeared in court on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to charges of child trafficking.

They are defended by a legal aid lawyer, Kelvin Silwimba. In the charges brought before the court, the Croatians are accused of attempting to traffic four named children late last year into Zambia “for the purpose of exploitation.”

Media in Croatia had reported that the detained Croats were four couples and that they included Zoran Subosic, a guitarist for well-known band Hladno Pivo, or Cold Beer.

On Thursday, witnesses included an immigration officer and a guest house manager.

Mercy Phiri, an immigration officer at Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport, said she was tipped off that some Croatians were planning to leave the country through the airport with Black children.

“I alerted the officers who were at the exit booth of the airport terminal to be aware of Croatians who had Congolese children. Later, I was informed that the same people were at the exit booth,” she told the court.

Phiri said the Croatians were reported to have four children identified as Congolese nationals. She said a closer look at the children’s passports indicated that they had entered Zambia through the Sakania border post used by Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Croatians produced purported adoption documents showing that the couples had not traveled to Congo but were instead staying in Zambia. They claimed that a lawyer from Congo helped them adopt the children, said Phiri.

Esthele Banda, a manager at a guest house where the Croatians stayed for five days, told the court that she became suspicious after seeing them with small children two days after checking in.

“We noticed they had Black children when one of the housekeepers found a baby aged one year or so crying,” said Banda.

Banda said there was a communication barrier between guest house staff, the children and the Croatians due to language differences.

“But after we noticed the baby crying, we helped the couple on how to take care of the baby,” she said, adding that she accompanied them to the airport when they were about to fly back to their country.

Banda said a man who booked rooms for the Croatians told her that the couples were in Zambia to adopt children from his foundation.

The trial continues on Jan. 23.

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