[sharedparenting] : PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: "Two girls are back in Rosemont with their father ..." (Bipin Shah case)
- This is the present outcome in Bipin Shah's case, as featured in TIME
magazine. Bipin had originally posted a 2 million (US) reward for the
return of his daughters. It has been retracted. His multi-million
lawsuit against Faye Yager and The Children of the Underground
-- * --
The Philadelphia Inquirer
April 18, 1999
Family drama leads to a Swiss village
Two girls are back in Rosemont with their father, who has custody, after
nearly two years with their mother.
By Stephanie A. Stanley
and Ralph Vigoda
INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS
On a calm afternoon eight days ago, in the picturesque lakeside city
of Lucerne, Switzerland, Ellen Dever, a fugitive from the United
States, was out walking with her two young daughters.
Sarah Lynn, 9, and Genevieve Marie, 7, were eating ice cream, talking
about Sarah's first Holy Communion, scheduled for the next day, and
about Genevieve's missing tooth, which had fallen out a few days
They had stopped at a fountain, Dever said in a phone interview
Friday, when she noticed two large men with sunglasses and hats
standing in front of a hotel, watching them.
"I had a weird feeling about them," Dever said.
Within minutes, she said, her children were snatched off the street,
carried kicking and screaming into a van, and driven away. By the end
of the weekend, they were in the Main Line home of their millionaire
father, Bipin Shah.
Their "recovery," as Shah has called it, ended what he says was a $3
million worldwide search for his daughters that began when they
disappeared with Dever in June 1997. The couple divorced in 1992.
Shah, 60, who lives in a stone mansion in Rosemont, has declined to
say how he found the girls or how he brought them out of Switzerland.
But a lawyer close to the case said that a woman who originally helped
hide Dever approached one of Shah's lawyers last year, offering her
help, if Shah would drop a lawsuit he had filed against her. She has
denied helping Shah.
Though Shah has full legal custody of the girls in the United States,
lawyers familiar with international law say he faced a possibly
protracted and uphill legal battle if he sought the help of Swiss
authorities to reclaim his children.
Dever, 43, has not contacted Swiss authorities. She has used an alias
since she fled the United States in June 1997, traveling to Belgium
and Greece before settling in Lucerne about a month later. She is
wanted by Chester County authorities for violating the couple's
custody agreement and by the FBI for unlawful flight to avoid
During three phone conversations Friday, Dever -- who refused to
divulge her assumed name or address -- briefly described her life in
Lucerne and detailed how the girls were taken.
For expenses, she said, she has used the half-million dollars she
received from the 1997 sale of her house in Radnor, which she had
bought with money from her divorce settlement. She and the girls were
living in a Lucerne apartment that was part of a large house.
The girls went to the local Montessori school, had ballet lessons, and
took art classes. "It's safe," Dever said of Lucerne, a community of
69,000 midway between Zurich and Bern. "We've been really well-loved."
April 10, she said, was a "family day." They ate lunch at a cafe,
bought magazines and shopped for sunglasses.
At one point, Dever said, Sarah looked at her and said: "Mom, do you
think we're going to make it until June?" referring to the two-year
anniversary of their flight. "I think we are," the girl said.
As they walked up the hill onto the quiet street where they lived, the
two men Dever had noticed were joined by a third. The men walked
quickly toward Dever. As they reached her, they blocked her way and
picked up the children, putting their hands over the children's
mouths. A white van with tinted windows sped toward them, stopped, and
the girls were pushed inside, she said.
Dever said she struggled with the men, trying to get inside the van.
She did not see Shah, she said, but heard a voice she thought was his
say: "I've got the children now." As the doors of the van closed, one
man still struggled with Dever on the street.
"It was a huge fight," said Dever, who had taken jujitsu lessons since
arriving in Switzerland. "My arms were scratched . . . I was fighting
like a banshee and so were the girls."
Dever said she was holding the man's blue-and-beige hat when she began
running after the van. A car stopped and an occupant asked whether she
needed help. She got in, but the van was gone. She was frantic, she
During the struggle, one of the men thrust an envelope at Dever. When
she was more composed, she read the note. "Ellen, I have the
children," it said. "You are welcome to see them any time, but you
must come home for this." It was signed by Shah.
The envelope also included the warrant for Dever's arrest.
Dever and Shah went through rocky times both before and after the
divorce. Shah accused her of having affairs. Dever filed three
requests in Montgomery County Court for protection-from-abuse orders,
claiming that Shah punched and threatened her. One request was
dismissed, and two ended in agreements to avoid each other. Shah
denied all allegations.
Their 1992 divorce agreement included joint custody of the children.
That changed in June 1997, shortly after Dever and the girls vanished,
when Shah received a court order giving him sole custody.
Shah, 60, a native of India, is a former CoreStates Bank executive who
worked on developing the MAC automatic-teller network and then started
an electronic-payment processing company, Gensar, which he sold in
1996 for $200 million. Dever, 43, worked for him at CoreStates before
Shah made international news by offering a $2 million reward for
information leading to the return of his children. That offer has been
withdrawn because Shah said he found the children through his own
Dever's flight had been aided by a controversial Atlanta woman, Faye
Yager, who had been involved with a group called Children of the
Underground. The organization helped women fleeing with their children
from allegedly abusive relationships. (No allegations of abuse against
the children were ever made against Shah).
A federal grand jury was convened last year in Philadelphia to
investigate Yager's role in Dever's disappearance, according to
Yager's local lawyer, Catherine Recker of Philadelphia.
Shah filed a $100 million suit against Yager in 1998, seeking damages
for the emotional harm he said was caused by separating him from his
children. Yager also faces a $90 million suit filed by a Connecticut
man, Jeffrey Rubenstein, whose wife and son disappeared allegedly with
Yager now owns an inn in Brevard, N.C., and says she no longer works
with Children of the Underground. Contacted Thursday, Yager said she
played no part in leading Shah to Dever and then hung up.
In October, according to Gary Bunch, Rubenstein's lawyer, the Yagers
proposed a settlement that would have called for Yager to use "her
best efforts to locate" not only the Shah children, but also
Under the proposal, Bunch said, if Yager led Shah and Rubenstein to
their children, they would dismiss their lawsuits against Yager and
use their "best, good-faith efforts to attempt to dissuade any
criminal prosecution" of the Yagers. The proposal also called for Shah
to reimburse Yager for travel expenses incurred to find his children,
In addition, the proposal would have prohibited Shah and others
involved from disclosing the existence of the agreement or that Yager
was working to find the children, Bunch said.
In the end, though, Bunch said he counseled Rubenstein against signing
the agreement. Bunch said he did not know whether Yager ultimately
Shah's lawyer, Albert Momjian, has declined to discuss how Dever was
found. Yager's lawyer in Atlanta was out of the office and did not
return phone messages Thursday or Friday.
Officials say it is relatively common for a divorced parent to flee
illegally with children but rarely for as long as Dever and the girls
stayed hidden. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
estimates that more than 350,000 children are abducted by relatives
each year, about half taken with the intent to conceal them
permanently. Most children are found within the first few months, the
Shah could have asked Swiss officials to get back his children. Under
the Hague Convention, which governs the international abduction of
children by parents, he would have been required to file an
application requesting Swiss help.
However, William Fleming, a counselor in the Office of Children's
Issues in the U.S. Department of State, said last week that if a child
had been settled in a country for more than a year, as Shah's
daughters were, that country usually would not accept a Hague
"If it's been more than a year, in my experience, it's kind of futile
to go on," Fleming said. "It's very difficult . . . it's unlikely [
the parent ] will win unless they can prove extenuating
The one-year period is significant, said Bill Hilton, a lawyer whose
practice includes Hague Convention custody cases. In the first year,
the country is required by Hague rules to return the child to the
parent who has legal custody. But if the child has been settled in the
country for more than a year, the country is no longer required to
return the child. At that point, the decision is left to the
discretion of the court in the country where the child is living, said
Hilton, of Santa Clara, Calif.
The one-year rule has exceptions, such as a claim that the children
were actively concealed.
Hilton said that Dever could file a Hague Convention application in
the United States for the return of her children to Switzerland,
arguing that Lucerne had become their residence.
Dever said she did not hear from the girls or Shah for 31 hours after
they were taken. She was told by her parents, who live in
Phoenixville, that Shah had called them, said he was with the children
on a private plane, and told them to tell Ellen not to do anything
She talked to the girls Monday, she said. She said Shah was taking the
girls shopping and having friends come to the house. "He's trying to
make it all seem so normal," Dever said. But she said the girls told
her they were frightened.
Momjian, Shah's lawyer, said last week that the girls were readjusting
to life in Rosemont.
Dever said she was trying to negotiate a custody agreement with Shah,
but that she had been unsuccessful.
© 1998 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
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