Organ Harvesting: UK Court Sentences Ekweremadu, Wife, Middleman Today

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On Friday, Nigeria’s former deputy Senate President will be sentenced in Britain to up to life in prison for plotting to harvest a man’s kidney for his sick daughter.

Ike Ekweremadu, 60, was found guilty in March at London’s Old Bailey criminal court of conspiring to traffic the young street trader into Britain for his body part in the first case of its kind in the United Kingdom. Beatrice Ekweremadu, 56, and Obinna Obeta, 50, a doctor who acted as a middleman in the plot, were also convicted. They will be sentenced on Friday as well.
Sonia Ekweremadus, 25, cried as she was cleared of the same charge by jurors after nearly 14 hours of deliberation.

It is legal in the United Kingdom to donate a kidney for monetary or material gain.

It was the first time charges of organ harvesting conspiracy were brought under the UK’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

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The maximum sentence under the law is life in prison.

Detective Inspector Esther Richardson of the Metropolitan Police’s Modern Slavery and Exploitation Command described the conviction as a “landmark conviction” and praised the victim for his “bravery” in coming forward.
The 21-year-old victim from Lagos, who cannot be named for legal reasons, testified during the weeks-long trial that the Ekweremadus had flown him to Britain to harvest his kidney.

The kidney was reportedly intended for Sonia, who is still on dialysis due to a kidney condition, in exchange for up to £7,000 ($8,800).

The man claimed he was recruited by a doctor working for the politician and thought he was coming to work in the UK.
The court heard that when he was taken to London’s Royal Free Hospital last year, he had no idea it was for a kidney transplant.

After preliminary tests revealed that he would not be a suitable donor, he fled and slept on the streets for three days.
According to the court, he eventually walked into a police station last May and stated that he was “looking for someone to save my life.”

Lawyers for the four defendants insisted he was acting “altruistically,” and Ike Ekweremadu told jurors he was afraid of being “scammed.”

Since 2003, Ekweremadu has represented the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in the Enugu West constituency in southeast Nigeria.

Nigerian lawmakers this week petitioned the London court for clemency, arguing that Ekweremadu was a first-time offender who had made significant contributions to West African politics.

He did not run in the recent National Assembly elections because he was detained prior to and during the trial.

The trial judge agreed with prosecutors that he could attempt to flee the United Kingdom. His wife and daughter were both released on conditional bail.

Joanne Jakymec, Chief Crown Prosecutor, called it a “horrific plot,” accusing the well-connected defendants of “utter disregard for the victim’s welfare, health, and wellbeing.”

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In the United Kingdom, approximately 20 people are diagnosed with kidney failure each day, necessitating long-term dialysis treatment, and approximately 7,000 are waiting for a transplant from a suitable donor.

According to Fiona Loud, policy director at the charity Kidney Care UK, informed consent is “a vital part of the organ donation programme,” and thorough checks are made to ensure “no coercion.”

She described voluntary donors as “acts of great generosity.”

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