A Nigerian senator offered a street seller just £2,400 for his kidney, the Old Bailey was told.
Ike Ekweremadu, a senior senator in the Nigerian Parliament, his wife Beatrice, their 25-year-old daughter Sonia and a medical “middleman”, Dr Obinna Obeta, allegedly conspired to exploit a 21-year-old man for one of his vital organs.
It is claimed that Sonia Ekweremadu was to have been the recipient of his kidney in a transplant operation at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London.
As part of the alleged plot, “elaborate” steps were taken to create the false impression that Sonia and her proposed donor were cousins, it is claimed.
The donor, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was allegedly recruited in Lagos, Nigeria, and was making a few pounds a day selling telephone parts from a cart in public markets.
The court was told that Dr Obeta was a former classmate of Sonia’s uncle, Isaac “Diwe” Ekweremadu, with whom he allegedly exchanged messages about screening donors in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. Isaac is not on trial as he is in Nigeria.
When the 21-year-old was found to be a suitable match, after other potential donors were discounted in October 2021, he was transported to London in February 2022 under the “direction and financial control” of the alleged plotters, the prosecution said.
As part of the deception, the young man was purported to be Sonia’s cousin, with the family connection used to get a temporary visa to travel to the UK, and he was coached to give false answers to doctors at the Royal Free Hospital, the court was told.
Under the agreement, the young man was to be paid either £2,400 or £7,000 in Nigerian Naira plus the promise of work and the opportunity to be in the UK, the prosecution alleged.
Opening their trial in central London on Monday, Hugh Davies KC said: “Relative to the wider medical costs of the process – measured in tens of thousands of pounds – which would have been done privately, his reward was to be a small fraction of the whole.
“To him – a street trader from Lagos – these sums and rewards were significant.”
Mr Davies said Ike, 60, and his wife, 56, were “significant figures” in Nigerian society and with “a significant degree of wealth” and “international connections”.
“There are, however, certain things that money and status cannot guarantee in any family and they include good health,” he told jurors.
‘A close, open and loving family’
Sonia had a “significant and deteriorating” kidney condition which could be managed through dialysis but cured with a transplant, the court heard.
Mr Davies told jurors: “Most parents, whether powerful or not in society, will do whatever is necessary to alleviate suffering in their child.
“The Ekweremadus were no different: the evidence – from downloads from their mobile phones, and wider actions – demonstrates a close, open and loving family each with an understandable and direct interest in Sonia’s medical treatment.”
While it is lawful for someone to donate a kidney, it is illegal to reward someone for doing so.
Jurors were told that the alleged donor did not understand until his first appointment with a consultant at the Royal Free Hospital 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.
The jury was told that Sonia Ekweremadu has not had a kidney transplant and remains on dialysis.
The three Ekweremadus, of Willesden Green, north-west London, and Obeta, 50, of Southwark, deny conspiring to arrange or facilitate the travel of the young man with a view to exploitation between August 1 2021 and May 5 2022.
The trial continues.
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