Former Nigerian deputy president Senator Ike Ekweremadu, his wife Beatrice, and a doctor have become the first individuals to be found guilty of organ trafficking under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act.
After a six-week trial at the Old Bailey, the trio was found guilty of facilitating the travel of a young man to the UK for the purpose of exploitation.
The court heard that the 21-year-old street trader from Lagos was offered an illegal reward to donate his kidney to the senator’s daughter after she dropped out of a master’s degree at Newcastle University due to kidney disease. The trio conspired to bring him to London and falsely presented him as Sonia’s cousin to medical staff at a private renal unit at the Royal Free hospital in February 2022. They attempted to persuade the medics to carry out an £80,000 transplant.
Prosecutor Hugh Davies KC told the court that Ekweremadu and his co-conspirators treated the young man and other potential donors as “disposable assets – spare parts for reward.” He added that the trio entered into an “emotionally cold commercial transaction” with the man.
Ekweremadu, who is a successful lawyer, founder of an anti-poverty charity, and helped draw up Nigeria’s laws against organ trafficking, denied the charge, claiming that he was the victim of a scam. Obeta also denied the charge, claiming that the young man was acting altruistically.
Beatrice denied any knowledge of the alleged conspiracy, and Sonia did not give evidence. WhatsApp messages presented in court revealed that Obeta charged Ekweremadu 4.5m naira (about £8,000) made up of an “agent fee” and a “donor fee.”
The judge, Mr Justice Jeremy Johnson, will pass sentence at a later date.