People-smuggling trial over child beggar ring

An Albanian woman, who allegedly forced three of her nephews and nieces to beg on the streets of Thessaloniki, giving her all the proceeds, is to be tried for people smuggling and forgery, judges ruled yesterday. Ilka Nezi was arrested in November 2002 after her youngest niece, aged 9, managed to run away from home and told police that her aunt had regularly beaten her and her siblings to ensure that they handed over the money they made by begging. Police said the suspect had arranged to take the three children from her sister, who had six children altogether, in the Albanian town of Korce, in return for 300 euros. Nezi allegedly left the three, now aged 11, 13 and 20, without food all day to strengthen their pitch. The woman is also charged with forging her nieces’ and nephew’s birth certificates, presenting them as her own children.