A United Kingdom Court has sentenced former Deputy Senate President of Nigeria Ike Ekweremadu to nine years eight months in prison for organ trafficking plot.
Same Court also sentenced his wife Beatrice to four years six months imprisonment while Dr. Obinna Obeta, a medical practitioner who helped as a middleman to arrange for the organ trafficking was sentenced to ten years imprisonment and his license suspended by the court order.
The judge, Justice Jeremy Johnson had in March 23, 2023 found Ekwerenmadu, Beatrice and Dr.Obeta guilty of organ trafficking offence , he convicted the defendants but reserved the sentencing till today.
Organ-trafficking plot, is an offence under modern slavery laws in UK that carry a maximum of life sentence or 12 month imprisonment or an unspecific fine.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, and Dr Obinna Obeta, 50, were convicted of conspiring to exploit a 21-year-old man they took to the UK from Lagos for his kidney transplant to Ekwerenmadu’s daughter Sonia.
Sonia who charged along with his father and mother was discharged and acquitted of the charge after about 24 hours of ruling in March .
The court found that the victim, a street trader from Lagos, was brought to the UK last year to provide a kidney in an £80,000 private transplant at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
The court agreed with the prosecution that the victim was offered up to £7,000 and promised opportunities in the UK for helping, and that he only realised what was going on when he met doctors at the hospital.
Prosecution had alleged during trial that the defendants had tried to convince medics at the Royal Free by pretending he was the cousin of Sonia, who has a debilitating illness and remains on weekly dialysis, when intact they were not related.
The court said while it is lawful to donate a kidney, it becomes criminal if there is a reward of money or other material advantage.
According to court hearing, Royal Free consultant, Dr Peter Dupont, concluded the donor was unsuitable after learning he had no counselling or advice about the risks of surgery and lacked funds for the lifelong care he would need.
The court further heard that Ekweremadus then transferred their interest to Turkey and set about finding another donor.
An investigation was launched after the young man ran away from London and slept rough for days before walking into a police station in Staines, in Surrey, crying and in distress.
Narrating his fears, the victim told police: “The doctor said I was too young but the man said if you do not do it here he would carry me back to Nigeria and do it there.”
Jurors also heard that Sonia was studying for a masters degree at Newcastle University when she became ill in December 2019.
In 2021, her father enlisted the help of his medically-trained brother, Diwe Ekweremadu, to search for a donor, the court heard.
Diwe Ekweremadu, who remains in Nigeria, turned to a former classmate, Dr Obeta, of Southwark, south London, who recently had a private kidney transplant at the Royal Free with a Nigerian donor.
Dr Obeta then engaged with Dr Chris Agbo, of Vintage Health Group, a medical tourism company, as well as an agent to arrange a visa for the donor, the court heard.
After their convictions, Chief Crown Prosecutor Joanne Jakymec described the conspiracy as a “horrific plot”.
“The convicted defendants showed utter disregard for the victim’s welfare, health and well-being and used their considerable influence to a high degree of control throughout, with the victim having limited understanding of what was really going on here,” she added.
Det Insp Esther Richardson, of the Metropolitan Police, commended the victim for his bravery in speaking against the offenders.
She added police, the Crown Prosecution Service and Human Tissue Authority teams had “worked tirelessly” on the case, which is the first time that defendants have been convicted under the Modern Slavery Act of an organ-trafficking conspiracy.