A Nigerian senator, his wife and a medical ‘middleman’ have been jailed for conspiring to smuggle a market trader into the UK to remove his kidney.
Politician Ike Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, and daughter Sonia, 25, stood trial charged with conspiracy to bring the man to Britain from Lagos for his organ.
The couple, along with medical “go-between” Dr Obinna Obeta, 50, were convicted at the Old Bailey in March.
The Ekweremadus’ daughter Sonia, who suffers from severe kidney disease, cried when she was cleared of the same charge.
At a sentencing hearing on Friday, Ekweremadu was jailed for nine years and eight months, his wife Beatrice was sentenced to four years and six months in prison while Obeta was sentenced to 10 years in prison .
Judge Johnson told the defendants: ‘In each of your cases the offense you have committed is so serious that neither a fine nor a community sentence can be justified.’
It has been alleged that the 21-year-old street trader should be rewarded for donating the organ to Sonia Ekweremadu, in a private £80,000 procedure at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
The case marked the first time defendants have been convicted under the Modern Slavery Act for conspiracy to harvest organs.
Although it is legal to donate a kidney, it becomes criminal if money or some other material benefit is rewarded.
The prosecution claimed the donor was offered up to £7,000 as well as the promise of a better life in the UK.
The donor didn’t realize until his first appointment with a consultant at the hospital that he was there for a kidney transplant, the Old Bailey said.
According to the consultant, he had a “limited understanding” of the reason for his presence and was “visibly relieved” to learn that the operation would not take place.
It has been claimed the man was misrepresented as Sonia Ekweremadu’s cousin in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade doctors to perform the procedure at the Royal Free Hospital.
The donor cannot be identified for legal reasons.
Defendants ‘planned to harm’ donor
On the question of harm to the victim, the judge said: “The transplant did not take place, but each intended it to take place and you each intended to harm the donor that would result. ….
“He would have had to spend the rest of his life with just one kidney and without the funding for the required follow-up care.”
He added that the risks had not been properly explained to the victim and that there had been no consent “in a meaningful sense”.
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The Ekweremadus, who have an address in Willesden Green, north-west London, and Dr Obeta, from Southwark, south London, had denied the charge against them.
Sonia Ekweremadu, who undergoes dialysis every week, declined to give evidence, but it was said on her behalf that she knew nothing about a reward offered to donors.
During the trial earlier this year, prosecutor Joanne Jakymec called it a “horrendous conspiracy” and said the defendants “showed complete disregard for the welfare, health and welfare of the victim”.