Greek officials, fearing that Maria’s 2009 birth record contained false information, have ordered a nationwide check of all Greek birth records in the last six years to ferret out welfare fraud or other irregularities.
The Greek Roma couple, now in pre-trial detention, have been charged with allegedly abducting Maria and committing document fraud. They told authorities they had received Maria after an informal adoption and their lawyer said Friday they planned to seek legal custody of the girl.
Under Greek law, child abduction charges can include cases where a minor is voluntarily given away by its parents.
“We are very, very happy with this outcome, because we have proved what we said from the outset …the adoption, as it happened, was not of a legal nature but it was not abduction,” the Greek couple’s lawyer, Costas Katsavos, told the AP.
“Now, as the birth mother has been found, we will ask to gain — through legitimate processes — custody of little Maria, whom the family truly sees as its own child.”
At the Gypsy camp in Farsala, central Greece, where Maria was found, residents said the couple had been vindicated.
“They are saying the woman stole the girl. She didn’t steal her. The Bulgarian gave the child to her … we’ve had Maria here for five years,” neighbor Christina Pavlos told The Associated Press.
There was no word on where Maria herself hoped to live. The Greek charity “Smile of the Child,” which has been looking after her, would not comment on the case.