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Cambodia jails Australian nurse over illegal surrogacy clinic

A judge has sentenced an Australian and two Cambodians to jail for offering foreign couples outlawed services. The Australian nurse claimed she didn't know commercial surrogacy was illegal in Cambodia.

A Cambodian court on Thursday sentenced an Australian nurse and two Cambodian associates to 18 months in prison for running a commercial surrogacy clinic in the country.

Last year, Cambodia outlawed commercial surrogacy services after becoming a popular destination for would-be parents seeking a surrogate mother to bear their children.

Read more: Will India cease to be a surrogacy hub?

Australian nurse Tammy Davis-Charles claimed she didn't know that commercial surrogacy was illegal in Cambodia, saying three local consultants assured her of its legality.

However, the 49-year-old was "aware that launching surrogacy services was illegal in Cambodia but she continued working and convincing Cambodian women to be surrogate mothers," the judge said.

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According to court documents, Davis-Charles charged couples up to $70,000 (59,000 euros) for surrogacy services.

She also paid the Cambodian surrogate mothers up to $12,000 to carry the children. The women told the court they had not been coerced by Davis-Charles or her associates.

Read more: Cambodia: New Asian tiger thrives amid autocracy

The judge noted that Davis Charles provided the services to 23 couples from the Australia and the US.

Besides serving one and a half years in prison, Davis-Charles was fined $1,000 while her two Cambodian associates Penh Rithy and Samrith Chan Chakrya were fined $500 each.

Following commercial surrogacy bans in Cambodia and Thailand, would-be parents have now turned to Laos to find surrogate mothers.

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ls/rt (Reuters, AP)

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