A wealthy Nigerian politician and his wife plotted to bring a street trader to the UK to harvest one of his organs for their ill daughter, a court has heard.

Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu, their 25-year-old daughter Sonia and medical “middleman” Dr Obinna Obeta allegedly conspired to exploit the 21-year-old man for his kidney.

Prosecutors claim the street trader was offered up to £7,000(Ksh1M) and the promise of a better life if he made the journey to London, posing as Sonia’s cousin to obtain a visa for the UK.

The man’s kidney would then be removed at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London, before being transplanted into Sonia, who has a “significant and deteriorating” kidney condition, prosecutors allege.

The alleged donor did not understand until his first appointment with a consultant at the hospital that he was there for a kidney transplant, jurors were told.

He was said by the consultant to have a “limited understanding” of what he was there for and was “visibly relieved” on being told the transplant would not go ahead, the court heard.

The three Ekweremadus, from Willesden Green, north-west London, and Dr Obeta, 50, from Southwark, deny conspiring to arrange or facilitate the travel of the young man with a view to exploitation between August 2021 and May last year.

They are on trial at the Old Bailey in London.

Opening their trial on Monday, Hugh Davies KC said Mr Ekweremadu, 60, an opposition senator in Nigeria and also a former deputy senate president, and his 56-year-old wife were “significant figures” in Nigerian society.

He told the court that their daughter had a “significant and deteriorating” kidney condition that could be managed through dialysis but cured with a transplant.

Their donor, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was allegedly recruited in Lagos, Nigeria.

At the time, the street vendor was making a few pounds a day selling telephone parts from a cart in public markets, the court heard.

Jurors were also told that the man was recruited by an acquaintance at the Lagos street market, who turned out to be a kidney donor for Dr Obeta – who is alleged to have had his own transplant in 2021. His donor is said to have travelled from Nigeria having said in a sworn affidavit that he was his cousin.

While it is lawful for someone to donate a kidney, it is criminal to reward someone for doing so, jurors were told.

Mr Davies said that, when the street trader was found to be a suitable match for the Ekweremadus, he was transported to London in February 2022 under the “direction and financial control” of the alleged plotters.

He was coached to give false answers to doctors at the Royal Free Hospital and the daughter was “singing from the same hymn sheet” to create a fake family history, Mr Davies said.

“Most parents, whether powerful or not in society, will do whatever is necessary to alleviate suffering in their child,” he told the court.

“The Ekweremadus were no different: the evidence – from downloads from their mobile phones, and wider actions – demonstrates a close, open and loving family each with an understandable and direct interest in Sonia’s medical treatment.”

According to prosecutors, the man was to be paid either £2,400 or £7,000 in Nigerian Naira, as well as the promise of work and the opportunity to be in the United Kingdom.

“To him – a street trader from Lagos – these sums and rewards were significant,” Mr Davies told the court.

Jurors were told that he was taken for medical screening tests in Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja in October 2021.

Mr Davies said that the young man’s account was that he believed he was being taken to London to work and the tests were for a visa.

The prosecutor said Dr Obeta was controlling the process in Nigeria and regularly updating Sonia’s uncle Isaac Diwe Ekweremadu, who was, in turn, updating his family.

He is alleged to have taken part in the conspiracy but is not on trial as he is in Nigeria.

The trial continues.


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