updated 1/24/2007 10:42:45 PM ET 2007-01-25T03:42:45

An 83-year-old man described buying a baby girl named Cinderella for his granddaughter in testimony on Wednesday in an infant trafficking trial in France.

The grandfather is one of 56 people on trial in the case, which centers on 22 babies who were sold between 2003 and 2005, mostly to couples within France's Roma, or Gypsy, communities, for between $3,900 and $9,100, prosecutors say. Most of those on trial are Bulgarians.

The grandfather -- referred to only by his first name, Jean -- said he bought the baby in October, 2002, from a foreign Roma couple that passed by his house with the infant in their arms. He said he paid them $5,850 for the baby girl, called Cendrillon, French for Cinderella.

Jean, a French Roma, said he bought the infant for his granddaughter -- who could not have children because she and her husband are related. The couple registered the baby as their own, saying she had been born in their caravan.

But one of the suspected organizers of the trafficking ring, Bulgarian Tinka Georgieva, disputed Jean's story, saying the octogenarian sought her out several times looking for babies for sale.

Georgieva said he also sought out another organizer, Frenchman Henri Salva, who she said recruited pregnant woman in Bulgaria, promising them large sums of money to travel to France to give birth and hand their babies over to other couples.

Prosecutors say the mothers usually only received a tiny fraction of the money and were often forced by the network to become prostitutes or beggars after giving birth.

Most of the couples who bought the babies could not have children, and many said they were repeatedly denied permission to adopt through normal channels. None were accused of mistreating their babies.

When the network was discovered, the babies were initially placed in foster care, though after several months they were returned to the families that bought them. Some couples have begun proceedings to legally adopt the children.

Salva, 72, has been hospitalized and was not present at Wednesday's proceedings. He, Georgieva and nine other suspected organizers face up to 10 years in prison.

Birth mothers and couples who bought babies face between six months and three years in prison if convicted.

The trial, in the Paris suburb of Bobigny, is expected to continue through Feb. 2.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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