The gang subsequently sold the three year-old boy to an elderly Italian couple for 5000 euros ($5700), the Italian news agency ANSA said on Monday.

According to the report, it was the boy's father, knowing the traffickers were dangerous, who agreed to the deal.

The gang was broken up by Italian police several months ago, and when the arrest of leader Besim Metani was announced the boy's mother came forward.

Boy traced

Italian and Albanian investigators finally traced the boy to the town of Sersale in the south of the country where he had been living since 1999 with Angelo Borelli, 69, and his wife Iole Rodio, 57, under the name of Michele.

The child, now aged seven, was put into the care of Italian social services until the legal authorities make a decision on whether to send him back to Albania.

The trafficking gang is alleged to have brought about 60 children into Italy by similar means.

Police spokesman Pierpaolo Maraffa said his officers were still trying to trace about 30 children in and around the town of Pescara on the Adriatic coast facing Albania.