In the first conviction of its sort under the Modern Slavery Act, Ike Ekweremadu, 60, a former vice president of the Nigerian senate, his wife, and a doctor, were found guilty of organ trafficking.
After a six-week trial at the Old Bailey, the Nigerian politician, his wife Beatrice, 56, and Dr. Obinna Obeta, 51, were convicted guilty of aiding the flight of a young man to Britain for the purpose of his exploitation.
The jury determined that they conspired to transport the 21-year-old street vendor from Lagos to London in order to abuse him for his kidney.
The court heard that the man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was offered an illegal reward to become a kidney donor for the senator’s daughter after kidney disease forced her to drop out of a master’s programme in cinema at Newcastle University.
In February 2022, the man was brought to a private kidney unit at London’s Royal Free hospital as Sonia’s cousin in an unsuccessful attempt to convince doctors to perform an £80,000 transplant.
The court heard that a medical secretary at the hospital worked as an Igbo translator between the man and the physicians in an effort to persuade them that the man was an altruistic donor.
Hugh Davies KC, the prosecutor, told the court that Ekweremadus and Obeta viewed the man and other potential donors as “disposable assets — reward-based replacement parts.”
He stated that they engaged in a “emotionally apathetic business transaction” with the individual.
Davies told the jury that Ekweremadu’s behaviour demonstrated “entitlement, dishonesty, and hypocrisy.” Ekweremadu, a prominent lawyer and founder of an anti-poverty charity who helped draught Nigeria’s laws against organ trafficking, exhibited “entitlement, dishonesty, and hypocrisy,” Davies said.
According to him, Ekweremadu, who owns multiple properties and employs 80 people, “decided to reward someone for a kidney for his daughter – a poor person from whom he distanced himself and made no queries, and with whom, for his own political security, he desired no direct touch.”
Davies continued, “What he decided to do was not merely in Sonia’s clinical best interests; it was exploitation and it was illegal.” The claim that he behaved out of love for his daughter is not a valid defence. Her therapeutic needs cannot be met at the expense of exploiting a poor person.”
Ekweremadu, who rejected the charge, said the court that he had been duped. Obeta, who also rejected the charge, stated the individual was acting altruistically and was not offered a reward for his kidney. Beatrice denied any awareness of the claimed plot. Sonia did not offer evidence.
Obeta charged Ekweremadu 4.5 million naira (about £8,000) in “agent fee” and “donation fee,” as evidenced by WhatsApp texts presented in court.
Ekweremadu and Obeta admitted claiming fraudulently that the man was Sonia’s cousin on his visa application and medical records.
Davies stated that Ekweremadu disregarded medical advice to find a donor for his daughter from within his own family. He stated, “There was never any plan for a close, medium, or distant relative to perform work that might be compensated for by a pool of donors.”
Mr. Justice Jeremy Johnson, the judge, will pass judgement at a later date.