25 Mar 2005

Possible child-trafficking case in American Samoa

3:11 pm on 25 March 2005

American Samoa's Attorney General's Office says it has so far discovered one case described by authorities as possible "child trafficking" where a minor was to have been taken to the mainland for adoption, without following local legal procedures.

The child in question was born in American Samoa, while the mother, a native of Samoa, was a resident of the territory.

The prospective adoptive parents are in Utah, where the paperwork for the adoption process started

A local attorney was involved in getting the local paperwork in order and reportedly also signed papers claiming "guardianship" for the child.

However, the Attorney General, Sialega Togafau, says the process was illegal and didn't conform with local statutes.

He says only the court has the authority to grant a petition appointing a guardian, after a proper hearing.

Our correspondent in Pago Pago says someone at the hospital tipped off the court about the adoption and Sialega's office issued a stop order preventing the child from leaving the territory.