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Greece Roma child case starts fraud probe

Greece is holding an emergency nationwide fraud investigation into birth certificates sparked by the case of the young girl found living in a gypsy camp.

Supreme Court prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani ordered the inquiry for certificates issued after January 1, 2008, amid reports of benefit fraud by families declaring births in multiple regions.

Experts have used the case to point out the severe weaknesses in the country's birth registration system.

The mayor of Athens has suspended three officials in charge of record-keeping. New parents have three months to declare the births. Investigators found many babies had been recently declared at or near the end of that deadline, raising suspicions some were multiple declarations to claim benefits.

A Roma couple are being held in custody charged with abduction and document fraud in the case of the girl known only as Maria. The girl, believed to be five or six, was taken into protective care last week after DNA tests established the couple were not her biological parents.

Christos Salis, 39, and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, deny the abduction allegations, claiming they received the child from a destitute woman to bring up as their own.

Dimopoulou claimed to have given birth to six children in less than 10 months, while 10 of the 14 children the couple had registered as their own are unaccounted for.

Police say the couple received about 2,500 euros (£2,120) a month in subsidies from three different cities.

-AP

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