A judge in Zambia grants bail to eight Croatian nationals accused of child trafficking

A judge in Zambia on Thursday released eight Croatian nationals accused of child trafficking.

Judge David Makalicha in Ndola, in the mineral-rich Copperbelt district, said the eight must each post $1,000 bail and surrender their passports to the court.

The eight are named Damir Majic, 44, Nadica Majic, 45, Zoran Subosic, 52, Azra Imamovic Subosic, 41, Ladislav Perisic, 42, Aleksandra Perisic, 40, Noah Kraljevic, 45, and Ivona Kraljevic, 46. He appeared in court on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to child trafficking charges.

They are defended by legal aid attorney, Kelvin Silwemba. In charges brought before the court, the Croats are accused of attempting to traffic four identified children late last year into Zambia for “the purpose of exploitation”.

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Croatian media reported that the detained Croats were four married couples and that among them was Zoran Subosic, the guitarist of the well-known band Hiladno Bivo or Cold Bear.

Among the witnesses on Thursday were the immigration officer and the guest house manager.

Mercy Phiri, an immigration officer at Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport, said she had received a tip-off that some Croats were planning to leave the country through the airport with black children.

Seven of the eight Croats accused of attempted child trafficking exit a vehicle outside the Magistrates Court in Ndola, Zambia, on January 10, 2023. The Croatian citizens have pleaded not guilty to the child trafficking charge.
(AP Photo/Salim Daoud)

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

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Phiri said the Croats had reports that four of the children were Congolese nationals. She said a closer look at the children’s passports indicated they had entered Zambia through the Sakania border point used by Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Croats submitted purported adoption documents showing that the couples had not traveled to Congo but were staying in Zambia instead. Phiri said they alleged that a Congolese lawyer helped them adopt the children.

Estili Panda, the manager of a guesthouse where the Croats stayed for five days, told the court she became suspicious after seeing them with young children two days after checking in.

“We noticed they had black children when one of the housekeepers found a one-year-old or so crying,” Panda said.

Panda said that there is a barrier in communication between the guesthouse staff, the children and the Croatians due to language differences.

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

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

The trial continues January 23.

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