Organ trafficking: UK court jails Ekweremadu, wife, doctor

EMBATTLED Nigerian senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, who were found guilty of organ trafficking in March have been jailed in what becomes a landmark judgment for the United Kingdom (UK).

At a sentencing hearing on Friday, May 5, Ekweremadu was jailed for nine years and eight months. His wife Beatrice was sentenced to four years and six months imprisonment, while the family doctor Obinna Obeta received a 10-year prison term.

This is the first time anyone would be convicted under the UK Modern Slavery Act for an organ harvesting conspiracy.


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    “In each of your cases the offence you committed is so serious that neither a fine nor a community sentence can be justified,” Justice Johnson told the defendants.

    The judge held that the defendants had intended harm to the donor that would have resulted in him spending the rest of his life with only one kidney and without the requisite funding for the required aftercare.

    He added that the risks had not been properly explained to the victim and there had been no consent “in any meaningful sense”.

    On Tuesday, May 2, the Nigerian Senate joined the House of Representatives, ECOWAS Parliament and a Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, to appeal to the court for leniency in meting out sentence against the couple.

    The Senate pointed  out that the lawmaker was ignorant of the law as they applied in the country when he sought a kidney donor for his ailing daughter, adding that all the defendants were first-time offenders.

    “We are now using this particular intervention to seek clemency in the sentencing. The conviction has already been done but we are seeking clemency because this is the first time our colleague is getting involved in this kind of thing,” the Senate’s letter to the Court read in part.

    The Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, also pleaded with the UK government for a lenient judgment.

    However, during trial, it was alleged that the 21-year-old street trader was to be rewarded for donating the organ to Sonia Ekweremadu, in an £80,000 private procedure at London’s Royal Free Hospital.

    The prosecution claimed the donor was offered up to £7,000 along with the promise of a better life in the UK, but the donor did not understand until his first appointment with a consultant at the hospital that he was there for a kidney transplant.

    It was also claimed that the man was falsely presented as Sonia Ekweremadu’s cousin in a failed attempt to persuade medics to carry out the procedure at the Royal Free Hospital.

    While it is lawful to donate a kidney in the UK, it becomes criminal if money or another material advantage is rewarded.

    It is not yet clear if the defendants, or the Nigerian government, would appeal the judgment.

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