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Ruling Date Set for Croatian Couples and Others Accused of Child Trafficking in Zambia

Ndola High Court has scheduled the ruling for Thursday, June 1, 2023, in the case involving four Croatian couples, Congolese individuals, and a Zambian who stand accused of attempting to traffic Congolese children within Zambia.

After a five-month trial, the case of the Croatian couples has now reached the stage of ruling, having progressed through the Ndola Magistrate’s Court and currently being heard at the Ndola High Court.

Following the continuation of the trial on Monday, Judge Mary Mulanda adjourned the matter to Thursday for the ruling.

In a new development, the 10th accused, Congolese national Steve Mulija, was finally able to meet his bail conditions and appeared in court without handcuffs for the first time. He was accompanied by a family whose identity remains unclear.

The state presented eight witnesses, including the arresting officer who testified last Friday and underwent cross-examination on Monday.

During cross-examination, defense lawyer Gideon Kalandanya questioned the arresting officer, Kombe Sakeni, about the absence of evidence presented before the court. When asked why he did not provide phone records showing transactions of payment between the Croats and Steve Mulija as evidence, the arresting officer responded that he followed the prescribed procedure, which did not require him to tender such evidence unless specifically asked to do so.

The defense then questioned the arresting officer about the lack of evidence to support the claim that the adoption documents were not genuine. The officer admitted that he did not present the evidence because he was not asked to do so according to the procedure.

Subsequently, the defense inquired if the Congolese government had made any claims regarding the children involved in the case, to which the arresting officer affirmed that there had been no such claims.

The defense further argued that receiving a child and flying out through Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport was not an offense in Zambia, a statement that the arresting officer agreed with.

Defense lawyer Gideon Kalandanya then argued that if the adoption process had been completed and confirmed by courts in Congo and Croatia, with appropriate date stamps, there was no reason for the accused to stand trial and be convicted in Zambia when neither country had claimed any wrongdoing. He proposed that the eight accused Croats be acquitted and allowed to return to Croatia with the children.

In response, the state, represented by lawyer Innocent Kamunga, argued that there was still overwhelming evidence to continue the case, as the transportation of the children from Congo to Zambia had indeed taken place.

The court case began after an alleged failed attempt to traffic the children, including an infant, when they were intercepted at the Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport just before they were about to be flown out of Zambia.

The arrest resulted in the detention of four couples: Zoran Subosic, 52, a guitarist in the well-known band Hladno Pivo (Cold Beer); Immovic Subosic, 41, an administrator; Damir Magic, 44, an electrical technician; Nadic Magic, 45, a technician; Ladislav Persic, 42, a medical doctor; Aleksandra Persic, 43, a hair salon attendant; Noah Kraljevic, 40, a program director; and Uvona Kraljevic, 36, a dog handler.

Later, the eight were discharged and subsequently rearrested under amended charges. The Immigration Department also implicated their senior officer, Gloria Sakulenga, 36, who was arrested and charged with the same offense.

On April 5, 2023, a Congolese man residing in Zambia, suspected to be the mastermind behind the alleged offense, was brought to court.