UNICEF Belgium director steps down amidst adoption fraud allegations

UNICEF Belgium director steps down amidst adoption fraud allegations
The interim head of UNICEF Belgium has been removed from his functions after allegations of adoption fraud emerged against him.

Bernard Sintobin, who was appointed interim director of the Belgian branch of UNICEF only last week, was asked to step down from his functions on Sunday by Eddy Boutmans, president of the United Nations fund.

The decision comes after a series of Tweets circulated by Dutch television reporter Eric Goens linked Sintobin to a federal investigation into an adoption fraud case.

The case concerns a Hacer Puente, a Belgian-based nonprofit where Sintobin formerly led the treasury department and which coordinates adoptions between Belgium and developing countries —Guatemala in particular.

Hacer Puente is under investigation by federal prosecutors after the testimony of two women led to suspicions that adopted children from the Central American country were simply taken from their mothers and made to appear as orphans by the organisation.

One of the testimonies is from a 30-year-old woman who was brought to Belgium as a 1-year-old and who reportedly found her parents were still alive in Guatemala, according to De Morgen.

While Boutmans cites these “serious accusations” as the reason behind his decision, he nevertheless says he has full confidence in Sintobin.

"The president is personally convinced that Bernard Sintobin is a man of good faith and is not implicated in the case of fraudulent adoptions," according to the statement.

UNICEF Belgium spokesperson Philippe Henon told Sintobin is not aware of being personally implicated in the ongoing investigation into Hacer Puente.

During the time that Sintobin oversaw the nonprofit’s treasury, around a hundred adoptions were coordinated by Hacer Puente.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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