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Katharine Gemmell

Nigerian Senator Exploited Street Trader for His Kidney, Jury Told

A Nigerian politician was accused of bringing a Lagos street trader to the UK in order to harvest one of the man’s organs to help his sick daughter. 

Ike Ekweremadu, a senior Nigerian senator, his wife and their daughter conspired together between August 2021 and May 2022 to bring a man from Nigeria to exploit him into donating his kidney to the 25-year-old daughter, who suffers from a kidney condition, prosecutors alleged at the start of a London trial. 

Obina Obeta, described by prosecutors as a “medically qualified middle-man” who helped the family, is also on trial. All four deny the charges.

The Lagos man, who cannot be named, was selling telephone parts from a cart in public markets for a few British pounds a day before he was brought into the plan, the jury was told on Monday. The alleged agreement was that he would donate a kidney to Sonia in return for as much as £7,000 ($8,418), plus the promise of work in the UK. The transplant never took place after London doctors blocked it from going ahead.

Ekweremadu and Obeta looked for people who matched the daughter as a donor and recruited “for reward, from socially and — most specifically — economically disadvantaged people,” Hugh Davies, the prosecution’s lawyer, said. Ekweremandu is described as influential in Nigerian society, with a “significant degree of wealth.”

Under UK law, it’s a criminal offense to reward someone financially or materially for donating an organ . It’s also criminal to arrange the travel of a person to the UK to exploit them under modern slavery laws.

The prosecution said the group took “elaborate steps” to create a “wholly false impression” that the man and Sonia were cousins to get a UK visa for him. He was also allegedly coached into false answers to tell doctors at London’s Royal Free Hospital. 

Obeta sorted the financial arrangement with the hospital to get an initial consultation through a medical tourism company, the prosecution alleged. In a series of messages shown to the jury, prosecutors said the alleged victim would not get his passport or visa back until after the procedure was completed. 

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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