BOTH parents of the 11-year-old girl who suffers a premature ageing disease have been arrested and accused of trying to defraud donors who gave money for her treatment – but they insist they have done nothing wrong and the cash is still in the bank.
Nadia Blanco Garau is said to need treatment in the USA at the hands of a surgeon in Texas for her condition, known as Tricothiodystrophy (TTD).
Her parents, Fernando Drake Blanco and Marga Garau, say Nadia is very ill and needs help – although TTD is mostly characterised by brittle hair, due to this being deficient in sulphur.
It can sometimes cause abnormalities of the bones and teeth, loss of fertility, brittle nails, sensitivity to light and sun and, in extreme and rare cases, nerve deafness, seizures, trembling, lack of coordination, and cataracts in the eyes.
Sufferers can also present mental retardation and be short in stature.
Marga and Fernando have been arrested and Nadia’s passport has been confiscated to prevent her parents taking her out of the country, and the family has been ordered to show full documentation concerning Nadia’s condition and treatment.
Fernando admits ‘some of the information’ he gave when seeking donations via Facebook was ‘exaggerated’, but that all money was destined for treating his daughter and the full €300,000 given remains in a separate bank account.
This has now been frozen.
The investigation remains sub judice and there is no suggestion as yet that the little girl will be taken into foster care, although authorities in the province of Lleida, Catalunya, where the family lives say they are ‘keeping an eye on’ the situation.
Marga stresses that her husband, who ran the appeal, ‘has done nothing wrong’.
“All he has done wrong is to exaggerate the story and to go to homeopathic health providers for which no documentary evidence can be provided,” she says.
“Nadia is ill and her life is at risk; that’s what doctors have told us, so we have to believe them.
“And we haven’t swindled anyone, because the money is still in the bank.”
Marga admits her husband ‘deceived’ her by telling her he was taking Nadia to doctors and hospitals when, in fact, he was going to dubious ‘natural medicine experts’ – but says he did this behind her back since he knows she does not believe in them.
Fernando was jailed for nearly five years in 2000 for forging papers in order to defraud €120,000 out of the company he worked for in the late 1990s, but he and his wife stress this should not be used as ‘evidence’ against them concerning Nadia’s appeal.
“I’m appealing to the presumption of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ – what I did in the past, I’ve already paid for and served a sentence for,” Fernando says.