Zoe's Ark
Eric Breteau, Emilie Lelouch, Alain Peligat and Philppe Winkelberg, members of French aid group Zoe's Ark, after their arrest in N'Djamena (Reuters)

A Paris court has jailed two French charity workers for illegally trying to smuggle 103 children from Chad into France.

The head of Zoe's Ark, Eric Breteau, and his partner and co-worker Emilie Lelouch, were found guilty of fraud, illegally brokering adoption and of attempting to bring foreign minors into the country in 2007.

"[They] couldn't possibly be ignorant of the illegal nature of their work," the court heard. The defendants were also accused of lying to the children's families.

The couple were fined a toal of €100,000 (£85,000) and barred from any activity related to the placement or accommodation of minors.

The charity itself received a €100,000 fine and four other charity workers - Philippe van Winkelberg, Christophe Letien, Alain Peligat and Marie-Agnes Peleran - were given suspended sentences ranging from six months to a year.

The defendants were arrested by Chadian authorities in 2007 as they were about to fly 81 boys and 22 girls to France where some 358 families had paid to adopt them in the false belief that the children were refugees from Sudan.

Zoe's Ark claimed the children were orphans from wartorn Darfur but in reality most of the children were not orphans and came from Chad.

Sentenced to eight years' hard labour by a court in Chad's capital of N'Djamena, the charity workers were later freed on a presidential pardon in 2008.