Three convicted following organ harvesting investigation
The Met’s Specialist Crime Command’s Modern Slavery and Child Exploitation team have successfully achieved justice for a vulnerable Nigerian victim caught up in a plot to remove his kidney.
This landmark prosecution is the first of its kind in the United Kingdom.
Three people were found guilty on Thursday, 23 March, at the Old Bailey of the first offence of human trafficking for the purpose of organ harvesting in London. This followed a six-week trial.
Leading investigating officer, Detective Inspector Esther Richardson, from the Met’s Modern Slavery and Child Exploitation team, said: “This conviction sends out a clear message across the world, the UK will not tolerate the international industry in illegal organ removal.
“We could not have achieved this conviction without the help of one man, the victim survivor. I commend him for his utmost bravery.”
Nigerian Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 60 (12.05.62) and his wife Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, 56 (10.09.66) who both reside in Abuja, Nigeria were found guilty of conspiracy to arrange / facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation – namely organ harvesting - Section 2 Modern Slavery Act 2015.
Obinna Obeta, 51 (30.11.71) Hillbeck Close, Southwark - who was described as the medical middleman - was also found guilty of the same offence.
They will all be sentenced on a date to be confirmed at the same court.
A 25-year-old woman was found not guilty.
The court heard how the male victim who is approximately 21 years of age, came from a remote village in Nigeria. He was deceived into being trafficked to the UK for the purpose of having his kidney removed and then donated to Sonia Ekweremadu. He was led to believe he was being brought to the UK to earn money for his family.
He was provided with a passport and also provided with a medical travel Visa. He had previously been taken for blood tests in Nigeria which he believed were for his Visa requirements. These were instead to determine if he was a medically suitable match to Sonia Ekweremadu.
On 20 February 2022, the victim was brought to the UK in the company of Isaac Onwudiwe Ekweremadu, and taken to Obeta's flat in Southwark.
On 24 February 2022, the victim attended his first medical screening at the Royal Free Hospital in London. The court heard how it became apparent to the doctor carrying out the screening that the victim had limited understanding of why he was there. After several appointments the victim realised he was to donate a kidney. The consultant picked up the fear and panic this caused the victim. The hospital went on to decline to complete the procedure.
The victim returned to the address in south London. He described the mood in the property had changed significantly and he was treated as a ‘slave’. A few days later he managed to escape the property, becoming homeless for around three days.
On 5 May 2022, he walked into Staines Police Station and stated: “I don’t know anywhere, I don’t know where I am. I was sleeping three days outside around, for someone to help me, save my life.”
The victim continues to be safeguarded and we are working closely with partners on future support.
Detectives from Specialist Crime Command’s Modern Slavery and Child Exploitation Unit began their fast paced investigation to understand how this vulnerable man had come to be in London.
DI Esther Richardson, added: “This shows the Met’s commitment to tackle exploitation in all its forms and we can only succeed by working with partners both in the UK and overseas.
“I would also like to thank our colleagues in the CPS, the Human Tissue Authority and other partners who have worked so hard with us.
“We do understand the challenges and no two cases are the same. Teams within the Met’s Modern Slavery Command understand this and we will ensure victims are supported, signposted and safeguarded with the help of partners.
“Modern slavery is all around us. We need the public’s help in identifying potential victims of trafficking and exploitation to bring offenders to justice and protect the vulnerable.”
Detectives discovered Obeta’s mobile phone contained extensive involvement in this offence. He recruited the victim and had significant communications with him.
They also discovered an application for a six-month Visa for the victim. The application stated: ‘Senator Ike Ekweremadu is sponsoring my medical treatment to enable me to donate an organ to Sonia Ekweremadu in Royal Free Hospital, London, UK.’
It also stated: ‘I would be donating an organ to my closest cousin (Sonia) in appreciation for her sacrifices towards me, my family and community. I am willing to put my life on the line for her to live and continue her good service to humanity.'
The Ekweremadus’ paid a health tourism company in the UK to facilitate the medical arrangements between the Ekweremadus’ and the Royal Free Hospital. They initially paid a £10,000 start-up fee, the total required would be in excess of £80,000.
Joanne Jakymec, Chief Crown Prosecutor, said: “This was an horrific plot to exploit a vulnerable victim by trafficking him to the UK for the purpose of transplanting his kidney.
“The 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.”
On 21 June 2022, detectives arrested Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu at Heathrow Airport. On 12 July 2022, Obeta was arrested at his home address. They were all later charged as above. Sonia Ekweremadu was also charged as above by postal charge requisition.