Former Nigerian Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and his wife Beatrice, have been convicted by a London court for organ trafficking, following a six-week trial at the Old Bailey.
Ekweremadu was arrested in London in mid last year for attempting to exploit an organ from a young Nigerian man who he claimed to have altruistically donated a kidney to his ailing 25-year old daughter.
Also convicted were Ekweremadu’s wife and one Dr Obinna Obeta, who were all found guilty of facilitating the travel of the victim to Britain with a view to his exploitation.
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The jury said in the first of its kind verdict under the Modern Slavery Act, that they criminally conspired to bring the 21-year-old Lagos street trader to London to exploit him for his kidney.
Ekweremadu 60, and his wife 56, were arrested in June last year in London after investigation by detectives found potential offences under modern slavery legislation. His wife was granted bail while Ekweremadu was remanded in prison as the trial went on.
The court was told that the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been offered an illegal reward to become a donor for the senator’s daughter after kidney disease forced her to drop out of a master’s degree in film at Newcastle University.
A report below by The Guardian reveals how the prosecutors convinced the jury that the Ekweremadu’s and Dr Obeta were conducting organ-harvesting exploitation.
In February 2022 the man was falsely presented to a private renal unit at Royal Free hospital in London as Sonia’s cousin in a failed attempt to persuade medics to carry out an £80,000 transplant. For a fee, a medical secretary at the hospital acted as an Igbo translator between the man and the doctors to help try to convince them he was an altruistic donor, the court heard.
The prosecutor Hugh Davies KC told the court that Ekweremadus and Obeta had treated the man and other potential donors as “disposable assets – spare parts for reward”. He said they entered an “emotionally cold commercial transaction” with the man.
The behaviour of Ekweremadu, a successful lawyer and founder of an anti-poverty charity who helped draw up Nigeria’s laws against organ trafficking, showed “entitlement, dishonesty and hypocrisy”, Davies told the jury.
He said Ekweremadu, who owns several properties and had a staff of 80, “agreed to reward someone for a kidney for his daughter – somebody in circumstances of poverty and from whom he distanced himself and made no inquiries, and with whom, for his own political protection, he wanted no direct contact”.
Davies added: “What he agreed to do was not simply expedient in the clinical interests of his daughter, Sonia, it was exploitation, it was criminal. It is no defence to say he acted out of love for his daughter. Her clinical needs cannot come at the expense of the exploitation of somebody in poverty.”
Ekweremadu, who denied the charge, told the court he was the victim of a scam. Obeta, who also denied the charge, claimed the man was not offered a reward for his kidney and was acting altruistically. Beatrice denied any knowledge of the alleged conspiracy. Sonia did not give evidence.
WhatsApp messages shown to the court revealed Obeta charged Ekweremadu 4.5m naira (about £8,000) made up of an “agent fee” and a “donor fee”.
Ekweremadu and Obeta admitted falsely claiming the man was Sonia’s cousin in his visa application and in documents presented to the hospital.
Davies said Ekweremadu ignored medical advice to find a donor for his daughter among genuine family members. He said: “At no point in time was there ever any intention for a family member close, medium or distant to do what could be paid for from a pool of donors.”
The judge, Mr Justice Jeremy Johnson, will pass sentence at a later date.