London — A senior Nigerian politician, along with his wife and another man, were found guilty by a U.K. court Thursday of attempted organ trafficking. Ike Ekweremadu, 60, a former deputy president of Nigeria’s senate, his wife Beatrice and Dr. Obinna Obeta were convicted of “exploiting a vulnerable victim for illegal organ harvesting” after bringing a 21-year-old man to the U.K. from Lagos, according to the U.K.’s Crown Prosecution Service.
The Criminal Court in London heard the kidney was intended for the Nigerian couple’s 25-year-old daughter Sonia, who was cleared of the charge of organ trafficking Thursday, the BBC reported.
Sonia Ekweremadu had suffered from “deteriorating kidneys” and required “regular dialysis,” according to prosecutors. Authorities “found evidence that her parents, Ike and Beatrice Ekeweremadu, conspired with Dr. Obeta to identify individuals in Nigeria whose kidneys might be harvested for Sonia’s benefit.”
In February 2022, the victim, a street trader, was trafficked to London and “was kept under the direction and financial control of the defendants… The conspirators’ plan was for the victim to provide a kidney to Sonia Ekweremadu in exchange for the suggested amount of either £2,400 or £7,000 and the promise of work in the U.K.,” the prosecutor said in the statement.
The court heard the defendants had attempted to convince doctors at London’s Royal Free Hospital that the victim and Sonia Ekweremadu were cousins in a bid to justify the victim’s temporary travel visa to the U.K.
The victim had undergone a kidney screening, but a consultant doctor had concluded the donor was unsuitable after learning he’d been given no counselling or advice about the risks of the surgery and lacked funds for the lifelong care he would need afterward.
Authorities were made aware of the case when the victim entered a local police station in West London and said he had been trafficked from Nigeria and that someone was trying to transplant his kidney.
Joanne Jakymec, the chief prosecutor in the case, called it a “horrific plot to exploit a vulnerable victim by trafficking him to the U.K. for the purpose of transplanting his kidney.”
“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,” Jakymec said.
A report by Interpol in 2021 found a wide network of people are often involved in organ trafficking in North and West Africa, with connections to the medical sector in countries from the region. Techniques used for illegal organ trafficking are often used for other types of human trafficking, such as promises of job opportunities abroad, as well as the use of threats and violence, the report said.