A wealthy Nigerian family plotted to bring a desperately poor street trader to the UK to harvest his kidney for their daughter, a London court has heard.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu, his wife Beatrice, daughter Sonia and medical ‘middleman’ Dr Obinna Obeta allegedly conspired to exploit the 21-year-old man for the body part. All deny the charges.
The victim, who eked out a living on the streets in Nigeria selling mobile phones, was offered up to £7,000 ($8,444) plus the promise of work and a life in the UK, the prosecution alleged.
As part of the plot to obtain the kidney, “elaborate” steps were taken to create the false impression that their daughter, 25, and her proposed donor were cousins, the Old Bailey court was told.
Hugh Davies KC, prosecuting, said Mr Ekweremadu, 60, a senior senator in the Nigerian Parliament, and his 56-year-old wife were “significant figures” in Nigerian society.
“His status and influence had produced a significant degree of wealth. They had international connections,” he said.
“There are, however, certain things that money and status cannot guarantee in any family and they include good health.”
Their daughter had a “significant and deteriorating” kidney condition that could be managed through dialysis but cured with a transplant, the court heard.
The proposed donor, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was allegedly recruited in Lagos, Nigeria.
“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,” Mr Davies said.
“To him — a street trader from Lagos — these sums and rewards were significant.”
Under English law, it is lawful for someone to donate a kidney but illegal to reward someone for doing so, jurors heard.
The man was transported to London in February last year under the “direction and financial control” of the alleged plotters, Mr Davies said.
As part of the deception, the young man was purported to be Sonia’s cousin, with the family connection used to obtain a temporary visa to travel to the UK, the court was told.
He was coached to give false answers to doctors at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, west London, and help to create a fake family history, Mr Davies said.
Jurors were told that until his initial appointment with a hospital consultant, the man had not realised he was there to donate a kidney.
He was said by the consultant to have “limited understanding” of his intended role in the matter, and was “visibly relieved” on being told the operation would not go ahead, the court heard.
“More widely, the prosecution contends that (the donor) was subject to a high degree of control throughout and was dependent on what he was told for his understanding,” the prosecution said.
Mr Davies said the case was not about the motivation but what the defendants were prepared to do to cure Sonia’s kidney condition.
“Most parents, whether powerful or not in society, will do whatever is necessary to alleviate suffering in their child," he said.
“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.”
The jury was told Sonia Ekweremadu has yet to undergo a kidney transplant and remains on dialysis.
The three Ekweremadus, from Willesden Green, north-west London, and Dr Obeta, 50, from Southwark, south-east London, 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.