The Singapore couple who adopted a two-year-old Malaysian girl through a "middleman" yesterday insisted they had done nothing wrong and that the incident was a misunderstanding.
Businesswoman Cannie Wong, who is in her 40s, also said that she and her husband, who has not been identified, have no intention of taking back Angie Tiong because her background is "too complicated".
Angie was handed over to Malaysian police on Sunday and is now in the care of Johor social workers.
The toddler was reported missing by her father on Dec 10, but it turned out that a month earlier, he had taken her from her Johor Baru home where she was being cared for by relatives. They accused him of "selling" his daughter.
Mrs Wong, speaking to the media for the first time yesterday, said she gave RM12,000 (S$3,940) to Angie's father out of "goodwill and sympathy". She said her husband, a Malaysian and Singapore permanent resident, was not with her as he was taken ill.
The Wongs have a son, but she had wanted a daughter. They started looking for a child in 2013 and attended adoption courses here. She got to know the middleman through a friend. Last August, she was introduced to Angie by the middleman at a shopping centre in Johor, and she took a liking to the child.
Mrs Wong said in Mandarin: "The middleman said her father has debts and hoped we could help. We took pity on (the father), so we gave him a hongbao... it was like a token sum, so legally it was okay."
The Wongs took Angie to Singapore in mid-November after completing the adoption process in Malaysia through a lawyer, with the consent of Angie's father.
Angie's mother is believed to be from Vietnam and abandoned her as a baby. The unidentified father has a history of substance abuse.
Mrs Wong said she was shocked when news broke of Angie's disappearance. "I didn't know her family is so complicated. My intentions were purely to adopt her and provide a good family for her, as I know her parents are separated and she was being taken care of by a nanny."
They planned to go through the adoption process here, but sent Angie to Ipoh to be cared for by Mr Wong's mother less than two weeks after they took her to Singapore as they had business to attend to.
Mrs Wong also said Angie's hair was cut short as she did not like getting shampoo in it.
Malaysian police are investigating, and the couple have recorded their statements. Mrs Wong does not intend to claim back the money she gave to Angie's father. "The case (for me) is closed already," said Mrs Wong, who described Angie as a "sweet and intelligent" girl.
The couple do not plan to adopt again. "I am really tired. I don't want to go through this anymore."
According to the Ministry of Social and Family Development's website, adoptive parents are not allowed to bring a child into Singapore or accept one from a third party or agency to adopt before they receive a favourable Home Study Report done by social service staff to ensure their suitability.
Kid & Tot Adoption Agency's director Ronnie Tan said: "Adoption approval has to go through the courts... Even in Malaysia, such a procedure takes about half a year. It is not a simple and straightforward process."