She Buys Baby For $300--Wanted Apartment

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[International: Immigration Stories]


Peace Sandberg, 40, and of dual Swedish and Nigerian nationality, tried to pull-off an audacious plan; and almost got away with it.

She went to Nigeria, bought a baby boy for about $300 and smuggled him to the UK in an attempt to get a free council flat. Police revealed that they had found a receipt in her belongings from a woman in Nigeria for that sum.

Peace Sandberg, a Kensington Housing Trust worker, will now not realize her dream of that free apartment; she will have another form of accommodation. She was found guilty at Isleworth crown court of bringing a non-EU citizen to the UK and sentenced to 26 months in prison on Friday 16th May 2008.

The judge said: she was “manipulative and a stranger to the truth,” at the crown court in west London.

After buying the child, Sandberg used a forged birth certificate to get a visa for him from the British high commission in Nigeria, her native country.

After arriving at Heathrow, and telling immigration officials that the baby was hers, Sandberg, who had been living in a hostel, was at Ealing council’s homeless persons unit, cradling the child in her arms. She claimed she had returned to Africa in December 2006 to give birth and needed an apartment  for herself and her “son”.

But the court heard she was immediately recognized by Lizette Reddy, a housing officer. How could Sandberg deliver a baby when she as not pregnant two months earlier? Sandberg then denied any wrongdoing, claiming she had adopted her cousin’s orphaned son to give him a better life in Britain, the Guardian newspaper reports.

Sandberg says that she took the $300 to Nigeria to provide for the child’s upkeep while she was out there and not as money for the purchase of the infant.

Despite her protestation the jury took just 40 minutes to unanimously convict her of one count of child trafficking. Sandberg remained impassive as Judge Sam kathkuda told her it was clear she had lied repeatedly during the “pre-planned and pre-meditated” operation to breach immigration laws. But she later burst into tears, insisting: “I am not a liar. I have never told a lie in my life---I have done nothing wrong.”

Outside court, Detective Inspector Gordon Valentine of the joint police and immigration service Paladim team, which investigates child trafficking and exploitation, welcomed the sentence. “This is the first case I am aware of where a child has been smuggled into Britain to get a free home,” he said.

The child has since been taken into the care of social services.

Sandberg’s five-day trial heard that in May 2006, she had been renting a private property in Acton, west London, when rent arrears and disputes with neighbors forced her to leave.

She contacted the local council for help only for them to decide she had made herself intentionally homeless.

But officials said they could provide temporary accommodation because she had a 12-year-old daughter. Some time later police and social services learned the girl had returned to her father in Sweden; Sandberg faced eviction.

Shortly afterwards the defendant bought return tickets to Nigeria, returning weeks later with the boy.

Chris Beddoe of Ecpat UK, a pressure group which campaigns for tougher laws against child traffickers, said: “We are seeing increasing evidence that children are being trafficked into Britain for benefit fraud”, the Guardian reports.

Up to two million families face being pushed on to the waiting list for social housing by 2010 as a result of soaring mortgage costs and high property prices, town hall leaders warned today.

The Local Government Association said councils are struggling to cope with increased demand as experts predict the young middle class will increasingly be forced to turn to council housing.

Allimadi writes for The Black Star News from London


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