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Nigerian politician found guilty in organ harvesting plot

March 23, 2023

A UK court has found a Nigerian senator and his wife guilty of trafficking a man to Britain to provide a kidney for transplant. A doctor was also found culpable of acting as a middle man.

Lady Justice, holding scales and a sword, on top of the Central Criminal Court, also referred to as the Old Bailey
It is the first time organ harvesting conspiracy charges have been brought under the UK's 2015 Modern Slavery ActImage: Clara Molden/empics/picture alliance

A jury in London on Thursday delivered guilty verdicts against Nigerian senator Ike Ekweremadu, his wife, and a doctor for conspiring to exploit a young man from Lagos for his kidney.

The verdict is the first under the UK's modern slavery laws to convict suspects of an organ-harvesting plot.

What happened in court

London's Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, heard that Ekweremadu, 60, and his wife Beatrice, 56, had brought the man to London in February last year with the promise of work in Britain.

They were said to have offered up to 3.5 million Nigerian naira (€6,900, or $7,600) to obtain the body part for their sick daughter.

The 25-year-old intended recipient of the organ, who has a serious and deteriorating renal condition and needs dialysis, was found not guilty of playing a role in the conspiracy.

Prosecutors told jurors that Ekweremadu, a former deputy senate president, and his wife came up with the plan to arrange a transplant for their daughter. They found the proposed donor in Lagos, where he worked as a market trader selling telephone parts.

The victim was described as Sonia's cousin in his UK visa application as part of the plot. The Ekweremadus also told doctors that he was a relative. 

The proposed operation last May never went ahead after a doctor at the became suspicious about the circumstances.

'Utter disregard for victim's welfare'

The man said he thought he had been going to the UK for work and had been recruited by a doctor working for the politician. He testified that the Ekweremadus flew him to Britain to harvest his kidney, but that he only realized this when he was taken to a London hospital.

The court heard that he fled and, after three days on the street, walked into a police station and said someone was trying to take one of his organs.

"The convicted defendants showed utter disregard for the victim's welfare, health and well-being and used their considerable influence to a high degree of control throughout, with the victim having limited understanding of what was really going on here," said Chief Crown Prosecutor Joanne Jakymec.

Ekweremadu, from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, has represented the Enugu West constituency in southeast Nigeria since 2003.

However, he did not contest recent National Assembly elections because he was in custody.

rc/nm (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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