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Nigerian senator's organ harvesting trial opens in UK

By Valentine GRAVELEAU
Nigeria Nigeria's former deputy Senate president Ike Ekweremadu is accused along with his wife, daughter and a doctor of bringing a man from Nigeria to have his kidney removed.  By PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (AFP/File)
MON, 06 FEB 2023 LISTEN
Nigeria's former deputy Senate president Ike Ekweremadu is accused along with his wife, daughter and a doctor of bringing a man from Nigeria to have his kidney removed. By PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (AFP/File)

Nigeria's former deputy senate president, his wife and daughter went on trial in a London court on Monday for allegedly plotting to harvest a street trader's kidney.

Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu, their 25-year-old daughter Sonia and a doctor, Obinna Obeta, are accused of conspiring to exploit the man for his organ.

The kidney was allegedly intended for Sonia, who remains on dialysis with a renal condition, in return for up to £7,000 ($8,430) and the promise of a new life in Britain for the 21-year-old trader.

All four were in London's famous Central Criminal Court, known as the Old Bailey, for the start of the trial, after previously pleading not guilty. They face life imprisonment if convicted.

In Britain, it is legal to donate a kidney, but not for reward. Prosecutors say regardless of whether the Lagos street trader gave his consent, a crime was committed by the wealthy Nigerians.

The accuser -- who cannot be named -- is said to have gone to UK police after finally refusing to consent to the procedure, following preliminary tests at a north London hospital in February 2022.

The consultant doctor said the young man had "limited understanding" of why he was there and was "visibly relieved" on being told the transplant would not go ahead, prosecutor Hugh Davies said.

He had been coached to give false answers to doctors at the hospital, and Sonia was "singing from the same hymn sheet" to create a fake family history linking the pair as cousins, the lawyer told the court.

The Ekweremadus and the doctor are accused of conspiracy to arrange the travel of another person with a view to exploitation, under UK legislation on modern slavery.

'International connections'

Ike Ekweremadu, 60, is a senator for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party for Enugu state in southeast Nigeria.

He has remained in custody after the judge agreed with prosecutors that he could try to flee the UK. His wife and daughter are out on conditional bail.

"His status and influence had produced a significant degree of wealth. They had international connections," the prosecutor said.

"There are, however, certain things that money and status cannot guarantee in any family -- and they include good health," Davies added.

Beatrice Ekweremadu, wife of Nigeria's former deputy senate president, is accused of organ harvesting in the UK.  By Adrian DENNIS (AFP) Beatrice Ekweremadu, wife of Nigeria's former deputy senate president, is accused of organ harvesting in the UK. By Adrian DENNIS (AFP)

Obeta managed the process in Nigeria, having himself undergone a kidney transplant in Britain with an organ donated by a "cousin" in 2021, according to the lawyer.

That donor then allegedly recruited the 21-year-old man at the centre of the Old Bailey trial, who was told he was being offered work in London and had to undergo medical tests.

"In the real world, altruistic donors are an exceptionally rare commodity: those willing to provide organs for reward are not," Davies said.

"They are often young, intrinsically economically disadvantaged, young men," he said.

The trial is expected to last seven weeks.

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