UK court finds Ekweremadu, wife guilty of organ trafficking
The former deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, has been found guilty of organ trafficking by a United Kingdom court.
His wife, Beatrice, and Obinna Obeta, a doctor involved in the case, were also found guilty.
The jury found that they conspired to bring the 21-year-old at the centre of the matter to London to exploit him for his kidney.
According to the UK Guardian, it is the first verdict of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act.
Their daughter, Sonia, was however cleared of the charges.
The Ekweremadu and his were arrested by the London Metropolitan Police in June 2022.
They were alleged to have attempted to convince doctors at the Royal Free Hospital in London to perform an £80,000 transplant on the donor who was presented as Sonia’s cousin.
However, during the trial, the couple apologised for claiming that the donor was a relative.
Hugh Davies, the prosecutor, told the court the Ekweremadus and Obeta had treated the man and other potential donors as “disposable assets – spare parts for reward”.
He added that they entered an “emotionally cold commercial transaction” with the 21-year-old.
The prosecutor said Ekweremadu, a lawyer and lawmaker, “agreed to reward someone for a kidney for his daughter – somebody in circumstances of poverty and from whom he distanced himself and made no inquiries, and with whom, for his own political protection, he wanted no direct contact”.
“What he agreed to do was not simply expedient in the clinical interests of his daughter, Sonia, it was exploitation, it was criminal,” he said.
“It is no defence to say he acted out of love for his daughter. Her clinical needs cannot come at the expense of the exploitation of somebody in poverty.”
Throughout the trial, Ekweremadu denied all accusations and maintained that he was the victim of a scam.
Obeta, who also denied the charge, claimed the man was not offered a reward for his kidney and was acting altruistically.
Beatrice vehemently denied knowing anything about the purported conspiracy. Sonia did not enter any defence after presenting the court with a medical report claiming she is unfit for trial.
Jeremy Johnson, the presiding judge, has reserved sentencing to a later date.
WhatsApp messages showed to the court revealed Obeta charged Ekweremadu N4.5 million (about £8,000) made up of an “agent fee” and a “donor fee”.
Ekweremadu and Obeta admitted 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 point in time was there ever any intention for a family member close, medium or distant to do what could be paid for from a pool of donors.”
The judge, Justice Jeremy Johnson, will pass a sentence on 5 May.
Under the UK’s Modern Slavery system Act 2015, organ harvesting is punishable with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.