Senator Ike Ekweremadu and wife Beatrice

Senator Ike Ekweremadu and wife Beatrice

A wealthy and influential Nigerian politician and his wife have been jailed for conspiring to smuggling a vulnerable man to London to harvest his organs for his ailing daughter.

In a landmark prosecution, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, and middleman Dr. Obinna Obeta, 51, were found guilty of modern slavery charges in March.

They were convicted of bringing a poverty-stricken peddler from Lagos to London in the hope of providing a kidney for his 25-year-old daughter Sonia, who needed a transplant.

At a sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey on Friday, Judge Johnson jailed Ekweremadu for nine years and eight months, while his wife received four years and six months and Obeta received 10 years.

His trial had heard how the Ekweremadus had lied by claiming the victim was their daughter’s cousin when in fact he was a penniless street trader selling mobile phone accessories from a cart in Lagos.

Couple tried to harvest organs for their daughter Sonia

Couple tried to harvest organs for their daughter Sonia

The plot to collect his kidney for his daughter fell apart when the Royal Free Hospital refused to carry out the private £80,000 procedure and he went to the police to report his ordeal.

The judge said: “The trafficking of persons across international borders for the harvesting of human organs is a form of slavery.

“It treats human beings and their body parts as commodities to be bought and sold. It is a profession that feeds on poverty, misery and despair”.

He told the defendants: “Every one of you played a role in that despicable business.”

The court heard how, despite initially agreeing to the procedure, the victim was naive and vulnerable and the various risks had not been explained to her.

When he flew to Britain, he had never seen a plane, let alone been on one.

‘My body is not for sale’

During the hearing, the victim, who cannot be identified, said he only found out what was planned when he was taken to a north London hospital for an initial consultation.

In a statement read in court, he said: “I would never (have) agreed to any of this. My body is not for sale.”

He also said that he believed that now he would not be able to return to Nigeria.

“These people are extremely powerful and I worry about my family. Although I live here in the UK at the moment, I know I have to be careful too.”

“I have no one here, no family, no friends. I have to start my life over.

“I’m worried about my family in Nigeria, but I’ve been told they visited my father and told him to drop the case in the UK.”

historical conviction

He said his plan now was to stay in the UK, get an education, work and play football.

The landmark prosecution marks the first time someone has been convicted under the Modern Slavery Act for conspiring to harvest organs.

However, Scotland Yard said detectives were now looking into other suspected cases.

Detective Superintendent Andy Furphy said: “Human trafficking for the purpose of organ harvesting is relatively rare in the UK, but what we have seen from the victim’s bravery is that this is not the only investigation of that nature that takes place in London.”

“Although organ harvesting makes up a very small percentage of modern slavery, human trafficking, we are now starting to see more people come forward.

“The victim in this case, a very brave young man, was exploited due to his vulnerable financial circumstances, by people who were powerful, wealthy and had control and dominance over him and brought him to the UK in order to remove his kidney.

“Her motivation was to get a kidney for her daughter, with no thought to the process involved, no thought to aftercare, no thought at all to the victim of modern slavery crime.”

Couple arrested at Heathrow

Prosecutors claimed the victim had been offered £7,000 and the promise of a better life in the UK when she agreed to take part in the proceedings.

The defendants tried to convince Royal Free doctors that he was their daughter’s 25-year-old cousin studying at Newcastle University when he fell ill.

But doctors were not convinced of the legitimacy of the arrangement, prompting the couple to look for another donor in Turkey.

After overhearing a conversation in the house where he was being held, the victim became convinced that his captors intended to take him back to Nigeria to perform the transplant there.

He fled for his life and after spending three days sleeping rough on the streets of London, where he was convinced he would be attacked by snakes, he went into a police station to report what had happened to him.

Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu were arrested on June 21 last year as they arrived on a flight to Heathrow.

Obeta was the former medical school classmate of Ike Ekweremadu’s brother and had undergone a kidney transplant at the Royal Free Hospital.

His donor also came from the Lagos street market and knew the victim in the case.

The defendants denied conspiracy to arrange or facilitate another person’s travel for the purpose of exploitation, claiming they believed the victim was acting “altruistically.”

Sonia Ekweremadu was acquitted of wrongdoing by the jury and watched her parents being sentenced from the public gallery.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our exclusive US offer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *