Senator Ike Ekweremadu, his wife, Beatrice Ekweremadu and daughter are found guilty of organ trafficking in the UK
Senator Ike Ekweremadu, his wife, daughter and a doctor have been convicted of organ trafficking, in the first such verdict under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act.
Ike Ekweremadu, 60, a former vice president, his wife, Beatrice, 56, his daughter Sonia, 25, and Dr Obinna Obeta, 51, were convicted of facilitating a young man’s trip to Britain for operation after a six-week trial at the Old Bailey.
They criminally conspired to bring the 21-year-old Lagos street trader to London to exploit him for his kidney, the jury found.
The man, 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 the Newcastle University, the court heard.
In February 2022, the youngster was falsely introduced to a private kidney unit at London’s Royal Free Hospital as Sonia’s cousin in an unsuccessful bid to persuade doctors to perform an £80,000 transplant. For a fee, a medical secretary at the hospital acted as an Igbo translator between the man and doctors in an attempt to convince them he was an altruistic donor, the court heard.
Prosecutor Hugh Davies KC told the court that Ekweremadus and Obeta treated the man and other potential donors as “disposable property – spares for reward”. He said they entered into an “emotionally cold business transaction” with the man.
The behavior of Ekweremadu, a successful lawyer and founder of an anti-poverty charity that helped draft Nigeria’s laws against organ trafficking, showed “right, dishonesty and hypocrisy”, a Davies told the jury.
He said Ekweremadu, who owns several properties and employs 80 people, “agreed to reward someone for a kidney for his daughter – someone in circumstances of poverty and who he walked away from and didn’t made no investigation, and with whom, on his own account”. political protection, he wanted no direct contact”.
Davies added: ‘What he agreed to do was not merely expedient in the clinical interests of his daughter, Sonia, it was exploitation, it was criminal. It’s no defense to say he acted out of love for his daughter. His clinical needs cannot be met at the expense of the exploitation of a person living in poverty.
Ekweremadu, who denied the charge, told the court he had been scammed. Obeta, who also denied the charge, claimed the man was not offered a reward for his kidney and was acting selflessly.
Beatrice denied any knowledge of the alleged plot. Sonia did not testify.
WhatsApp messages shown in court revealed that Obeta charged Ekweremadu 4.5 million naira (around £8,000) consisting of ‘agent fees’ and ‘donor fees’.
Ekweremadu and Obeta admitted to 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 time was there any intention of any close, middle or distant family member doing what could be paid for by a group of donors.”
The judge, Justice Jeremy Johnson, will hand down his sentence at a later date.