“It’s a baby business” (“it’s a traffic of babies”). It was with these chilling words that Véronique Piaser-Moyen learned that she had adopted a stolen baby 35 years ago in Sri Lanka.

At the time, the mother and her husband, who live in Isère, are the happy parents of two children. They want to expand their family. “I was not yet 30, says Véronique. I had had my boys very young, and I had been very ill afterwards, so the possibility of having a child naturally was no longer an option.

The couple decides to turn to international adoption. “At the time, we found the gesture beautiful. In the 1980s, we were a rather altruistic youth, the atmosphere was one of optimism, mutual aid… We thought we could change the world, without ever being in a “colonialist” approach as some will reproach us by the rest”, continues Véronique.

Very quickly, they take steps to make their adoption project a reality. “We did everything in the rules, insists the mother of the family to Planet. Our concern was precisely not to fall into child trafficking, because we knew that it existed, especially in South America, where certain crooked organizations were asking for very large sums. In fact, the couple therefore eliminates this destination, and turns to Asia, and in particular, Sri Lanka.

“We learned, by word of mouth, as was done a lot for adoptions abroad at the time, that it was possible and supervised in Sri Lanka, and we got in touch with Mrs. P., the head of an orphanage on site. The DDASS validated all our procedures”, explains Véronique.

The couple went there at the beginning of 1985. “It was January 14, 1985, remembers Véronique. We arrived in Colombo, the capital, where we met Mrs. P, whom I took to be the director of the orphanage at the time. She told us there was a 15 day old baby girl, named Titania, waiting for us.

The parents meet her, knowing very little about her story. “We were only told that his mother was 17, and we could see that she was not a particularly chubby baby, but everything happened so quickly, at the time, we did not have this thought of say: something is wrong, adopting a baby so young, that’s not normal”, explains the mother of the family.

Especially since, on the spot, the authorities assure the couple that they have nothing to fear. “The French Embassy in Colombo never told us: “beware”, and for us, therefore, there was no reason to be wary. And then, we had traveled a lot, nor were we ultra-naive people, who discovered the world”.

Above all, the young parents are delighted to finally adopt their little girl. Titania returns with them to France, and grows up, surrounded by love, without a shadow on the board.

“We were happy, and we had never had the curiosity to look more deeply around his origins, we had a normal family life”, reports Véronique.

But in 2018, everything changed. That year, Titania, then 33, told her parents that she wanted to know her story. “She tells us, legitimately, that she would like to know her origins, to know what has become of her biological mother, not to mention necessarily meeting her… And of course, we helped her quite naturally”, continues the mother of family.

Véronique and her husband, who have kept many contacts in Sri Lanka, start by contacting one of their friends in Colombo. They send him the adoption file for their daughter; just to see if he can already dig a little before a family trip there, planned for later in the year.

“In the file, there was an address, supposed to be that of the place of residence of the biological mother at the time of the adoption”, says Véronique.

Véronique’s world is collapsing. “We were devastated. And now we had to tell our daughter. How to tell him such a thing?”, she is moved.

At first, however, the parents decide to conduct their own investigation, and search every corner of the internet in search of information on this dark traffic.

The system that Véronique and her husband discover is chilling. “Everything was true, it fell on us with great violence, explains Véronique to Planet. The Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden had already conducted surveys on this traffic, we discovered the full extent, the horror of the phenomenon. There would even have been, according to the Swiss investigators, women prostituted by these mafiosi with European tourists, to obtain a “clearer product”, more “white” babies, because supposedly this was more appreciated by Westerners.

The traffic generated, for years, colossal income, for those responsible, but also, more broadly, for the country, which then benefited from the tourism of adopters. “There was, at the same time, such a demand from adoptive parents, that for these people it was the goose that lay the golden eggs, they had to ‘produce’…”, says the mother of family in a sigh.

From now on, the couple is quite certain: they have been victims of this criminal enterprise. “We had to announce it to our daughter, it was a little moment of horror. She expected anything but that. And now she wanted to go there,” says Véronique.

Véronique and her husband accompany Titania to Sri Lanka, on the trail of her dramatic origins. “We were involved, it had also become our story”, insists the mother.

On the spot, they discover, little by little, the underside of the traffic. “We learned that Titania’s birth certificate was a fake, that she had never been registered with the Sri Lankan civil registry, like most trafficked children. We understood that the children were stolen either at birth or later”.

The family also manages to find Mrs. P, the “orphanage director” who had supervised the adoption of Titania in 1985. “We went to her house escorted by the police. She made us a whole movie, that she was now old and that she did not remember … But we ended up tearing this promise from her: she had a week to find the biological mother”.

Mrs. P. ends up sending them to a civil registrar. “This gentleman had found the civil status of one of our daughter’s sisters. The mother had had two other children. Within minutes, my daughter learned that her birth mother was still alive and had three sisters. We were afraid it was another lie, a surrogate mother, but the officer looked at my daughter and said to her: you look a lot like her,” recalls Véronique.

The revelation will forever break Véronique’s family, who have since continued to want to shed light on this scandal.

Titania, for her part, has not seen her adoptive parents for two years. “For our daughter it’s abominable, I can’t imagine what’s going on in her head, and I don’t blame her, even if I wish it weren’t like that, that it was hasn’t happened, whether it’s a proper adoption…”, breathes Véronique, eaten away by sadness.

Sadness, and anger, too. The mother of the family and her husband denounce today the omerta which reigns around the trafficking of children, and the “accomplice” reaction of the French authorities at the time. “The embassy did not check anything, even though there are inconsistencies in our daughter’s file, as with many adoptees. We realized it after the fact, of all these things that could have put us in the ear”, explains Véronique Piaser-Moyen. For her, there is no doubt: France was aware of what was happening there.

“Digging through the archives of diplomatic institutions, we found documents which prove that in 1983 the ambassador stationed in Colombo sent a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs telling him that there was child trafficking likely. Two years later, they let us go anyway. The alert was revived by other diplomats in 1990, in 1991, in 1992. But these reports were ignored by the government. Why ? Today, we want an investigation to be opened”, asks Véronique.

The mother also regrets the lack of unity among the many victims of this traffic. “A lot of parents are so ashamed, or afraid of the consequences, and they don’t dare to talk about it. There is a terrible denial, and a real omerta”, she laments.

It is also in this sense that Véronique wrote a book, which traces the history and the fight of her couple: My daughter, I did not know (ed. City). “It felt like homework for me. I knew how to write, and I had to do it,” says Véronique Piaser-Moyen. Even if she specifies it: “This book is our experience, our fight, it is not the story of my daughter, that is for her to tell if she wishes one day. Whatever happens, Titania remains our darling daughter, we will never question it”.

My daughter, I did not know – When international adoption turns into child trafficking, by Véronique Piaser-Moyen (City editions), €18.50