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Organ trafficking: Nigerian senator Ike Ekweremadu awaits sentencing

Organ trafficking: Nigerian senator Ike Ekweremadu awaits sentencing
Ike Ekweremadu   -  
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United Kingdom

Influential Nigerian Senator Ike Ekweremadu, convicted in London of attempting to remove a young man's kidney for a transplant to his daughter, will be sentenced on Friday after the first such trial in the UK.

The 60-year-old lawmaker, his wife Beatrice, and a doctor who acted as an intermediary were convicted in March of arranging the trip to the UK of their victim, a 21-year-old street vendor from Lagos, for remove his kidney.

All three were convicted under Britain's Modern Slavery Act, first used in an organ harvesting case. They face life imprisonment. The couple's daughter, Sonia, 25, has been cleared.

The case is followed closely in Nigeria, whereas the prosecution recalled at the start of the trial - the Ekweremadu family wields "power and influence". Former vice-president of the Senate, Mr. Ekweremadu is still officially a member of Parliament, the new Senate elected at the beginning of the year having not yet taken office.

Unlike the Ekweremadu couple, the victim is a disadvantaged young man, a street vendor in Lagos. According to the prosecution, he had been promised up to 7,000 pounds sterling (7,800 euros), together with the promise to work and stay in the United Kingdom.

During the trial, the young man said he thought he had been brought to the UK to work. He said he only realized once in front of the British doctors that it was an organ transplant.

The kidney was to be transplanted to Sonia and the Ekweremadu family had asked the victim to pose as the cousin of the young woman. In the UK, it is legal to donate a kidney altruistically, especially for a loved one, but illegal to do so for a financial or material "reward".

After understanding the real reason for his coming to England, the victim went to the police in May 2022 “looking for someone to (him) save his life”. The operation did not take place and the Ekweremadu couple had been arrested at Heathrow Airport in London in June.

Elected from a constituency in southeastern Nigeria for the People's Democratic Party (opposition), Ike Ekweremadu was unable to stand in the recent elections because he was in pre-trial detention, the prosecution having highlighted the risks of leak.

In a statement released by police after the conviction, prosecutor Joanne Jakymec slammed the defendants' "complete disregard for the well-being and health of the victim", the use of their "considerable influence" to try to achieve their ends in the face of a victim who had only a "limited understanding of what was really going on".

Esther Richardson, of the London police unit to fight against modern slavery, had welcomed an "important" decision and the courage of the victim to have denounced the facts.

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