Dragons’ Den star James Caan ‘regrets’ offering to buy baby girl from Pakistan village, claiming: ‘I was being emotional, not rational’
- ‘I clearly have regrets. It wasn’t rational and it wasn’t right.’
Dragons’ Den entrepreneur James Caan has sparked dismay after he was filmed offering to buy a baby from a poverty-stricken family.
The Pakistani-born star was in the country filming an ITV report about his charity work when he was handed a newborn baby girl.
Moments after taking the baby in his arms in a flood-hit village, he offers to buy the child for 100,000 rupees – about £700 – to give to his brother.
However, the Dragon today claimed he had only spoken out in the heat of the moment, in the heat of an emotional situation, and quickly realised the baby should not be moved from its family or village.
On the video he is filmed saying: ‘I’m being 100 per cent serious,’ he says. ‘My brother lives here and he desperately wants a baby. We can give this baby the best life she could possibly have.’
His daughter Hanah tries to intervene to stop him, but he says, ‘Stop it, stop it.’
It is only later after reflection that the star backtracks, telling the ITV crew: ‘I was literally at that moment in time so taken away with emotion.
‘What I have to remember is that I am here to build a village. That child belongs to that family.’
Later he is seen breaking down in tears.
In the footage, due to be screened as a series of reports for ITV’s News At Ten, Caan holds the infant and exclaims: ‘Oh my god, look at that. She is gorgeous.’
He is then seen asking: ‘Where is the mother and father?’ before making the disaster-struck family the ‘deadly serious’ offer of money for the child.
Today Mr Caan defended the scenes that have shocked children’s charities, saying his outburst was a ’emotional response’ to the horrors he had witnessed.
‘It was more an emotional response than a rational thought,’ he told Radio 5 Live. ‘As soon as I came out of the village I reflected on the moment and realised it was clearly not the right thing to do in that situation.
‘I clearly have regrets. It wasn’t rational and it wasn’t right.
‘You are in a village where people are dying of malnutrition, where food isn’t getting through. If there’s an opportunity to give a life a chance of survival it’s more an emotional response than a rational decision.’
He said after they moved away from the family his daughter had told him the baby belonged to its family and the village. He added that his brother was unaware of the incident.
Caan heads a foundation aiming to raise £500,000 to rebuild the devastated canalside village of Jan Lunda, 100 miles north-west of Islamabad.
The 49-year-old is best known for his appearances on BBC’s Dragons’ Den, in which he has featured for three series.
He lives in London with his wife, Aisha, and two daughters Hanah and Jemma-Lia. He moved to Britain from Pakistan as a child – his original surname was Khan – and grew up in Brick Lane, East London.
Instead of going into the family business he chose to start up his own headhunting company from scratch.
He is now head of a private equity firm and is thought to be worth around £130million.
Yesterday he told how he had scrapped plans for a glitzy 50th birthday party so he could carry on helping flood victims in Pakistan.
He told The Sun he would instead fly out to Jan Lunda for the day with his family.
He is asking people to donate money for new £1,500 brick homes in Jan Lunda to replace the mud huts swept away by the flood.
Philippa Lei, of children’s charity World Vision, said she had been ‘shocked’ by the film.
‘It is understandable to have a strong emotional reaction in that situation but it is not the best way to help children to take them out of their communities,’ she said.
‘I am pleased that James seemed to realise later that adoption was not the best option.’
A spokesman for Save the Children said: ‘It is never right to buy children and we are glad that Mr Caan came to his senses.
‘When confronted by a vulnerable infant, amidst the debris of Pakistan’s devastating floods, it is a human impulse to try to help.
‘In the aftermath of disasters such as Pakistan’s, children are terribly vulnerable.
‘The best help we can give to these children, is to enable them to stay within the love and protection of their families by helping them rebuild their lives – something Mr Caan is now trying to do.’
Rosie Shannon, of Save the Children, added: ‘We absolutely respect what he’s doing in Pakistan to help millions of people.
‘Taking children away from their families is not really the right route to go down.’