(AP) — A senior Nigerian politician and his wife were found guilty Thursday of conspiring to transport a street trader to the UK as part of an organ-harvesting plot.
Ike Ekweremadu, who was deputy president of the Nigerian Senate and a lawyer, and his wife, Beatrice, were accused of arranging the travel of a 21-year-old man to the UK with a view to exploiting him for a kidney donation.
Prosecutors said the politician and his wife were behind the recruitment of the man at a Lagos street market, and that they arranged for the victim to provide a kidney to their 25-year-old daughter, Sonia, in an 80,000-pound (nearly $100,000) transplant operation at a London hospital.
The victim, who was transported to London in February 2022, believed he was being taken to the capital for work, and that under the agreement he would be paid thousands of pounds, prosecutors said.
Kidney donations are lawful in the UK, but it’s a criminal offense to reward someone with money or other material advantage for doing so.
The verdict is the first to convict suspects of an organ-harvesting conspiracy under the UK’s modern slavery laws.
As part of the ruse, the victim was described as Sonia’s cousin in his UK visa application, and the Ekweremadus pretended to doctors that the young man was related to Sonia.
But a doctor at the Royal Free Hospital became suspicious about the circumstances surrounding the proposed operation, and decided it couldn’t go ahead. The Ekweremadus then tried to find more potential donors in Turkey, prosecutors said.
The case came to light when the victim reported to British police that he had been trafficked from Nigeria and that someone was trying to transplant his kidney.
Chief Crown Prosecutor Joanne Jakymec described the case as “horrific.”
“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 said in a statement.
Dr Obinna Obeta, described by prosecutors as a medical “middleman” in the plot, was also found guilty Thursday at London’s Central Criminal Court. Sonia Ekweremadu, who has a serious kidney condition, was cleared by the jury.
The defendants were ordered to remain in custody, and their sentencing was scheduled for May 5.