Nigerian senator accused of ‘organ harvesting plot’ at Royal Free Hospital
A powerful Nigerian Senator and his wife illegally brought a young man into the UK for a kidney transplant at an NHS hospital to help their sick daughter, the Old Bailey has heard.
Ike Ekweremadu, 60, and his wife Beatrice, 56, are accused of a plot to harvest the organ of an impoverished street trader from the Nigerian capital of Lagos.
It is said the young man, who cannot be named, was told to pose as a cousin of their daughter Sonia, and was offered up to £7,000 to undergo the operation at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
However the alleged plot was thwarted when a doctor realised the man had little idea of the procedure during preliminary tests, and he was “visibly relieved” when it was blocked.
The Ekweremadus are now on trial alongside their daughter Sonia, 25 – the intended recipient of the transplant – and a doctor, Obinna Obeta, 51, who is said to have acted as the “middleman”.
They all face an allegation under the 2015 Modern Slavery Act, in the first trial of its kind involving alleged organ harvesting.
“In 2021, Ike Ekweremadu and his wife Beatrice were significant figures in Nigerian society”, said prosecutor Hugh Davies KC.
“This reflected the fact that Ike Ekweremadu, then approaching his 60th birthday, was a senior senator in the Nigerian Parliament. With this came power and influence. His status and influence had produced a significant degree of wealth. They had international connections.
“There are, however, certain things that money and status cannot guarantee in any family, and they include good health.”
The court heard Sonia Ekweremadu suffers from a deteriorating kidney condition called FSGS - focal segmental glomerulosclerosis - with Nephrotic Syndrome.
“Most parents, whether powerful in society or not, will do whatever is necessary to alleviate suffering in their child”, said Mr Davies.
“The Ekweremadu’s were no different: the evidence...demonstrates a close, open and loving family, each with an understandable and direct interest in Sonia’s medical treatment.”
In need of a transplant, it is alleged the family, with the help of Sonia’s uncle Isaac in Nigeria, hunted for a suitable donor on the streets of the capital, Nigeria.
“She, her parents, a medically qualified middleman, Dr Obinna Obeta, Ike Ekweremadu’s brother Isaac, and others are alleged to have formed a criminal agreement - a conspiracy - to arrange or facilitate the travel of a donor from Nigeria with a view to his exploitation”, said the prosecutor.
“The specific donor was recruited in Lagos, Nigeria, and was at the time selling telephone parts from a cart in public markets for a low number of UK pounds per day.”
The alleged victim, believed to be 21-years-old and due to be a witness in the trial, was brought to the UK in February 2022 after being identified as a match for Sonia, and had been offered a job in the UK together with payment of between £2,400 and £7,000.
He was told to pose as Sonia’s cousin during the medical procedure, to be carried out privately at the Royal Free, jurors heard.
His “reward was to be a small fraction of the whole: to him - a street trader from Lagos - these sums and rewards were significant”, said Mr Davies.
The prosecutor told the court that although a deal for the man’s kidney may have been struck, a victim of Modern Slavery cannot legally consent to their own exploitation.
The Ekweremadus, from Willesden Green in northwest London, and Obeta, from Southwark, have all pleaded not guilty to a conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of another person with a view to exploitation between August 1 2021 and May 5 2022.
The trial continues.