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Friday 5 May 2023

A senior Nigerian Senator, his wife and a doctor previously convicted of exploiting a young man for the purpose of illegal organ harvesting have been jailed.

This landmark prosecution is the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. 

It was only made possible following evidence given by the vulnerable victim survivor who was brought to the UK in a plot to remove his kidney and presented himself at Staines Police Station. 

60 year old Nigerian Senator Ike Ekweremadu, was sentenced to nine years and eight months’ imprisonment and his wife Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, was sentenced to four years and six months' imprisonment. They both resided in Abuja, Nigeria.

Doctor Obinna Obeta from Southwark was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.

The victim survivor, who must not be named for legal reasons, has declined applying for compensation, irrespective of the financial benefit he stood to make. In his victim impact statement he described how he wanted to put the entire ordeal behind him. His plan is to work, get an education and play football.

The trio were sentenced at the Old Bailey earlier after being convicted of conspiracy to arrange / facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting, following a six-week trial.

Detective Superintendent Andy Furphy, the Met’s Modern Slavery and Child Exploitation lead, said: “The Metropolitan Police is committed to tackling modern slavery, human trafficking and exploitation in all its forms and we can only succeed in this by working closely with partners in the UK and overseas.

“This investigation into organ harvesting was conducted by dedicated, specialist crime teams. Getting to the truth was challenging and complex. Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu and Obeta preyed on the victim, a young man vulnerable by his personal circumstances, using their significant wealth and political influence to intimidate and exploit him.”

Detectives from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command’s Modern Slavery and Child Exploitation led the unique investigation. Detectives drew on their years of experience in order to successfully achieve justice for the victim.

The investigation was also a prime example of cross partner collaboration with the Crown Prosecution Service, Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office, Human Tissue Authority and Justice and Care.

Julie Currie, Victim Navigator Programme Manager at Justice and Care, said: 'Thankfully, in the UK, cases of organ trafficking are very rare. It has been our privilege to support the survivor involved, who has been through a horrific experience, and help him to begin to rebuild his life.

'We applaud the man's bravery for giving evidence in the case and the tireless work of the police involved in the investigation. We hope the trial sends a clear message out to other traffickers that they will be pursued.'

The victim continues to be safeguarded and we are working closely with partners on future support.

Detectives began their investigation after the victim walked into Staines Police Station, stating he didn’t know where he was, after sleeping rough for three days. Detectives then began their fast paced investigation in order to understand the true nature of this victim’s ordeal.

The Ekweremadus were arrested after detectives were made aware of their flight to London Heathrow in June last year.

Specialist officers boarded the plan and arrested and removed the couple. They had approximately £30,000 in USD/Naira.

Obeta, who was described as the middle man was arrested on 12 July at his home address in Southwark. He himself was an organ recipient in 2021. He played a pivotal role in this offence. He recruited the victim and had significant communication with him.

Det. Supt. Andy Furphy went on to say: “The Met’s specialist Modern Slavery Teams understand victims have different needs and we will always put them first. In this case, and in many others, we were supported by Justice and Care and their invaluable victim navigator service, working together to support and safeguard the victim. I would like to also thank all our partners for helping to achieve this outcome.

“Modern Slavery is hidden in plain sight in our communities and high streets, in hospitality, our factories, sex work and construction. We need the public’s help in identifying potential victims of trafficking and exploitation to enable us to target the organised criminals who see people as a commodity and who control, enable and facilitate the slavery of human beings.”

During the investigation detectives discovered the victim, who is 21 years of age, came from a remote village in Nigeria. They learnt how he was deceived into being trafficked to the UK for the purpose of having his kidney removed and then donated to the daughter of the Ekweremadus. He was led to believe he was being brought to the UK to earn money for his family.

He was provided with a passport and also provided with a medical travel Visa. He had previously been taken for blood tests in Nigeria which he believed were for his Visa requirements. These were instead to determine if he was a medically suitable match.

In February last year, the victim was brought to the UK in the company of Isaac Onwudiwe Ekweremadu, and taken to Obeta's flat in Southwark.

He attended his first medical screening at the Royal Free Hospital in London. The court heard how it became apparent to the doctor carrying out the screening that the victim had limited understanding of why he was there. After several appointments the victim realised he was to donate a kidney. The consultant picked up the fear and panic this caused the victim. The hospital went on to decline to complete the procedure.

The victim returned to the address in south London. He described the mood in the property had changed significantly and he was treated as a ‘slave’. A few days later he managed to escape the property, becoming homeless for around three days.

The Ekweremadus paid a health tourism company in the UK to facilitate the medical arrangements between the Ekweremadus and the Royal Free Hospital. They initially paid a £10,000 start-up fee, the total required would be in excess of £80,000.

Joanne Jakymec, Chief Crown Prosecutor, said: “This was an horrific plot to exploit a vulnerable victim by trafficking him to the UK for the purpose of transplanting his kidney.

“The defendants showed utter disregard for the victim’s welfare, health and well-being and used their considerable influence to a high degree of control throughout, with the victim having limited understanding of what was really going on here.”

Enquiries continue.


posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 3:52 pm  

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