Former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; his wife Beatrice; and their doctor, Obinna Obeta have been found guilty of organ trafficking in the first verdict of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act.
After a six-week trial at the Old Bailey, Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, and Obeta, 51, were found guilty of enabling a young man’s travel to Britain with the intent to exploit him.
The jury concluded that they engaged in criminal conspiracy to lure the 21-year-old street vendor from Lagos to London in order to take advantage of him for his kidney.
Ekweremadu and his wife were charged in the United Kingdom after they allegedly lured a young man from Nigeria to harvest his organ for their ailing daughter, Sonia.
The lawmaker was last year arrested and had been in the custody of UK authorities after they received complaints from the young man about their alleged plans to harvest his organ.
The prosecutor Hugh Davies KC told the court on Thursday 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 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”, Davies told the jury.
He said 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”.
Davies added, “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.”
Ekweremadu, who refuted the accusation, said in court that he was a victim of fraud. The man was not given a reward for his kidney, according to Obeta, who also refuted the accusation, and he was acting out of altruism. Beatrice vehemently denied knowing anything about the purported conspiracy. Sonia didn’t offer any testimony.
At a later time, the judge, Mr. Justice Jeremy Johnson, will impose a punishment.