An Australian nurse at the centre of a surrogacy business yesterday admitted to hiring Cambodian women to carry babies for Australian couples, but denied falsifying Cambodian documents at the closing of her trial at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Tammy Davis-Charles, 49, has been jailed since her arrest in November 2016, just weeks after the government banned commercial surrogacy following the industry’s spread into the country.
Ms Davis-Charles is on trial along with two Cambodians, Penh Rihty, 28, and Samrith Chan Chakriya, 35, who aided her with her booming business. They face surrogacy and document forging charges.
At the close of her trial yesterday, Ms Davis-Charles admitted to running the surrogacy business, but denied accusations from police and prosecutors that she facilitated the forgery of birth certificates.
Ms Davis-Charles said she came to Cambodia to run the business, called Fertility Solutions PGD, after a similar venture in Thailand failed due to the Thai government outlawing the practice.
She said from 2015 up until her arrest, she had hired 23 Cambodian women to carry babies for Australian couples.
“I recognise that I was involved with hiring Cambodia women to be pregnant and carry babies, but I was not involved with any fraudulent documentation,” she said.
“I now have cancer in my eyes and have a five-year-old daughter back in my country,” she added. “I would like the court to release me.”
Deputy prosecutor Vong Bunvisoth countered Ms Davis-Charles’ claims, arguing the evidence collected by police and presented to the court by prosecutors proves her guilt on both charges laid against her.
“Based on the real evidence of documents seized, and their confessions thus far, these three have committed the offences they are accused of,” said Mr Bunvisoth. “Therefore, I would like to suggest the judge to punish them by Cambodian laws.”
Mr Bunvisoth went on to explain that $50,000 was paid to Ms Davis-Charles per surrogacy, money that she then used to pay the surrogate mother and her two accomplices to forge public documents.
If convicted, the trio faces up to two years imprisonment. A verdict is due August 3.On Friday, the deputy chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking in Persons claimed that the high-profile case has led to other surrogacy companies fleeing the country.
Chou Bun Eng made the claim after a meeting on human trafficking.
When pressed by reporters to name the companies, she declined, citing possible risks to ongoing investigations.