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Nigerian senator in court over organ-harvesting trial

Defendants Beatrice Ekweremadu (l) and Sonia Ekweremadu outside the Old Bailey

A Nigerian senator is on trial charged with exploiting a 21-year-old to come to London and donate a kidney.

Ike Ekweremadu, his wife Beatrice, their daughter Sonia, 25, and an associate, Dr Obinna Obeta, 50, allegedly broke modern slavery laws.

The Old Bailey heard on Monday that Mr Ekweremadu illegally paid a street trader from Lagos, to travel to the UK, for a donation to help Sonia, who suffers from a kidney disease.

The defendants deny the charges.

Opening the case, prosecutor Hugh Davies KC said Mr Ekweremadu’s “status and influence had produced a significant degree of wealth”.

The family from Willesden Green, north-west London, had “international connections” he said.

Sonia Ekweremadu’s condition, he said, could have been alleviated or cured by a kidney transplant, and the family was “close, open and loving”, with a “direct interest in Sonia’s medical treatment.”

But, he told the jury, rewarding someone for a kidney donation was illegal.

He said there was an “obvious risk that those providing organs for transplantation for reward are likely to come from the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society.”

The defendants have been charged under modern slavery legislation which makes it an offense to “arrange or facilitate the travel” of a person to the UK for exploitation.

This offense carries a higher potential sentence of life, compared to a maximum of three years for illegally making an organ donation.

Ike Ekweremadu

Ike Ekweremadu has been a senator in Nigeria since 2003

The alleged victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was recruited from the street markets of Lagos, the court heard, where he had a cart and sold mobile phone parts.

He was from a remote village and did not know his exact age, so he “adopted” a date of birth which would make him around 22 now, jurors were told.

The court heard he was given medical tests in Nigeria to assess his suitability as a donor before being flown to the UK.

He was allegedly offered the equivalent of £2,400 plus the promise that he could live and work in the UK.

“To him”, Mr Davies said, “a street trader from Lagos, these sums and rewards were significant.”

Jurors were told the alleged donor did not understand until his first appointment with a consultant at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead that he was there for a kidney transplant.

He was said by the consultant to have “limited understanding” of what he was there for and was “visibly relieved” on being told the transplant would not go ahead, the court heard.

Mr Davies told the jury that no potential donor would have done it without some form of reward.

He said that “elaborate steps were taken to create the wholly false impression that [the alleged victim] and Sonia Ekweremadu were cousins.”

“None of this would have been necessary if this was a straightforward, genuine, altruistic kidney donation. It was not…”

“It was criminal.”

The three Ekweremadus and Dr Obeta, from Southwark, deny conspiring to arrange or facilitate the travel of the young man with a view to exploitation between 1 August 2021 and 5 May 2022.

The trial continues.

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