Nigerian politician guilty of organ-harvesting plot in landmark UK case

Senator Ike Ekweremadu, his wife and a medical middleman were convicted under Modern Slavery Act

Ike Ekweremadu
Ike Ekweremadu (L) brought a man to Britain to give kidney to the politician’s daughter
(Image credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei/Getty Images)

A wealthy Nigerian senator, his wife and a doctor have been convicted of organ trafficking under the UK Modern Slavery Act, in a landmark case.

Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu and Dr Obinna Obeta conspired to bring a young street trader from Lagos to Britain to harvist his kidney, a jury at the Old Bailey heard. The organ was to be given to the couple’s 25-year-old daughter, Sonia, who was found not guilty of the same charge.

Prosecutors claimed the intended donor, 21, had been “offered up to £7,000 and promised opportunities in the UK”, the BBC reported. But he “only realised what was going on when he met doctors” at the Royal Free Hospital in London, where the £80,000 private transplant was to be carried out.

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The Ekweremadus were said to have pretended he was their daughter’s cousin, but were told he was a medically unsuitable match. According to the presecution, the couple then “transferred their interest to Turkey and set about finding another donor” for their daughter, “who has a serious kidney condition”, The Independent reported.

Hugh Davies KC said the Ekweremadus and Obeta, who helped find the proposed donor, had treated the intended victim and others like him as “disposable assets – spare parts for reward”. Obeta, of Southwark in south London, had recently had a private kidney transplant at the Royal Free with a Nigerian donor.

Rather than asking members of their own families to donate an organ, the plotters decided it was “far better to buy one and let the medical risk go to someone you don't know”, David claimed.

An investigation was launched after the Lagos man “ran away from London and slept rough for days before walking into a police station in Staines, in Surrey, crying and in distress”, the BBC reported.

The resulting convictions mark the first of their kind under the Modern Slavery Act.

The three “conspirators” will be sentenced on 5 May and “all face up to ten years in jail”, said the Daily Mail.

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Jamie Timson is the UK news editor, curating The Week UK's daily morning newsletter and setting the agenda for the day's news output. He was first a member of the team from 2015 to 2019, progressing from intern to senior staff writer, and then rejoined in September 2022. As a founding panellist on “The Week Unwrapped” podcast, he has discussed politics, foreign affairs and conspiracy theories, sometimes separately, sometimes all at once. In between working at The Week, Jamie was a senior press officer at the Department for Transport, with a penchant for crisis communications, working on Brexit, the response to Covid-19 and HS2, among others.