A former Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, his wife, and a doctor have been convicted of organ trafficking by a UK court, UK Guardian reported.
In what it described as the first verdict of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act, the newspaper said the accused were found guilty of facilitating the travel of a young man to Britain with a view to his exploitation after a six-week trial at the Old Bailey.
The jury found that they criminally conspired to bring the 21-year-old Lagos street trader to London to exploit him for his kidney.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the former deputy senate president was arrested and charged by MET Police last June for conspiracy to traffic a man whose name was later revealed to David Nwamini (Ukpo).
This newspaper also reported that Mr Nwamini was not a minor, based on the details provided by the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and Westminster Magistrate Court last June and July respectively.
Mr Nwamini according to UK Guardian was offered an illegal reward to become a donor for Mr Ekweremadu’s daughter who has a kidney disease that forced her to drop out of a master’s degree in film at Newcastle University.
“In February 2022 the man was falsely presented to a private renal unit at Royal Free hospital in London as Sonia’s cousin in a failed attempt to persuade medics to carry out an £80,000 transplant. For a fee, a medical secretary at the hospital acted as an Igbo translator between the man and the doctors to help try to convince them he was an altruistic donor, the court heard,” UK Guardian reported.
The prosecutor Hugh Davies told the court that the Ekweremadus and Obeta had treated the man and other potential donors as “disposable assets – spare parts for reward”. He said they entered an “emotionally cold commercial transaction” with the man.
The behaviour of Mr Ekweremadu, a successful lawyer and founder of an anti-poverty charity who helped draw up Nigeria’s laws against organ trafficking, showed “entitlement, dishonesty and hypocrisy”, Mr Davies told the jury.
He said Mr Ekweremadu, who owns several properties and had a staff of 80, “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.”
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“What he agreed to do was not simply expedient in the clinical interests of his daughter, Sonia, it was exploitation, it was criminal. 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,” UK Guardian quoted Mr Davies as saying.
Mr Ekweremadu denied the charge, claiming he was the victim of a scam. In the same vein, the doctor, Mr Obeta, who also denied the charge, claimed the man was not offered a reward for his kidney and was acting altruistically.
Mr Ekweremadu’s wife, Beatrice, denied any knowledge of the alleged conspiracy while his daughter, Sonia, did not give evidence.
WhatsApp messages shown to the court revealed Mr Obeta charged Mr Ekweremadu N4.5 million (about £8,000) made up of an “agent fee” and a “donor fee”.
Messrs Ekweremadu and Obeta later admitted to falsely claiming Mr Nwamini was Sonia’s cousin in his visa application and in documents presented to the hospital.
The prosecution lawyer, Mr Davies said Mr Ekweremadu ignored medical advice to find a donor for his daughter among genuine family members. “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, Jeremy Johnson, will pass a sentence at a later date.
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