A former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, his wife Beatrice and a middleman medical doctor, Obinna Obeta, may get a maximum of life sentence or 12 months imprisonment or a fine or both in the United Kingdom following their conviction for organ trafficking offences.
They are due to be sentenced on May 5.
The Specialist Crime Team of the Metropolitan Police in London arrested them last year for alleged conspiracy to harvest the organs of a 21 –year-old.
They were arrested, tried and convicted under the Modern Slavery Act of an organ-trafficking conspiracy.
The Act reads, “A person guilty of an offence under Section 1 or 2 is liable (a)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life; (b)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine or both.”
Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, and Obinna Obeta, 50, were convicted on Thursday of conspiring to exploit the man for his kidney, in the first such case under modern slavery laws.
The Old Bailey heard the organ was for the couple’s daughter, Sonia, aged 25.
The victim, said to be a street trader from Lagos, was taken to the UK last year to provide a kidney in an £80,000 private transplant at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
The prosecution said he was offered up to £7,000 and promised opportunities in the UK for helping, and that he only realised what was going on when he met doctors at the hospital.
One of the defendants, Obeta, tried to convince medics at the Royal Free by pretending he was the cousin of Sonia, who has a debilitating illness and remains on weekly dialysis, when they were not related.
While it is lawful to donate a kidney, it becomes criminal if there is a reward of money or other material advantage.
Royal Free consultant, Peter Dupont, concluded that the donor was unsuitable after learning he had no counseling or advice about the risks of surgery and lacked funds for the lifelong care he would need.
The court heard that the Ekweremadus then transferred their interest to Turkey and set about finding another donor.
An investigation was launched after the young man ran away from London and slept on the street for days before walking into a police station in Staines, in Surrey, crying and in distress.
Relaying his fears, he told police: “The doctor said I was too young but the man said if you do not do it here he would carry me back to Nigeria and do it there.”
Jurors heard that Sonia was studying for a master’s degree at Newcastle University when she became ill in December 2019.
In 2021, her father enlisted the help of his medically-trained brother, Diwe Ekweremadu, to search for a donor, the court heard.
Diwe Ekweremadu, who remains in Nigeria, turned to a former classmate, Obeta, of Southwark, South London, who recently had a private kidney transplant at the Royal Free with a Nigerian donor.
Obeta then engaged with Chris Agbo, of Vintage Health Group, a medical tourism company, as well as an agent to arrange a visa for the donor, the court heard.
The victim, who knew the man who donated his kidney to Obeta, was recruited from a Lagos street market where he made a few Naira a day selling phone accessories from a wheelbarrow.
The Ekweremadus, who have an address in Willesden Green, North-West London, and Obeta, from Southwark, South London, denied the charge against them.
It is the first time that defendants have been convicted under the Modern Slavery Act of an organ-trafficking conspiracy.
The defendants were all remanded into custody ahead of their sentence on May 5.