A NHS consultant blew the whistle on the former deputy president of the Nigerian Senate and his wife accused of trafficking a teenager they found on the streets of Lagos to harvest his organs for their sick daughter, a court has heard.
Ike Ekweremadu, 60, and Beatrice Ekweremadu, 55, are accused of taking the homeless youngster to the UK from Nigeria to transplant his organs to their daughter who is suffering from kidney failure.
The 15-year-old was given the passport of a 41-year-old in order to get into the UK, but did not know he was there to donate a kidney until he went to a hospital appointment in London, a court heard yesterday.
After he arrived in the capital in February he had a string of medical appointments about kidney donation, but a consultant at the Royal Free Hospital became concerned about the boy’s real age and if he knew he was there to donate an organ, it is alleged.
Mr Ekweremadu has been an elected senator at the Abuja-based parliament since 2003 after moving into politics after years as a lawyer. His wife, five years his junior, is an academic and doctor and also a major public figure in Nigeria. They are believed to have four adult children. Both deny trafficking the boy.
Prosecutor Damla Ayas told Uxbridge Magistrates Court yesterday: ‘The victim was 15. In Nigeria he was approached by both defendants. He was homeless on the streets of Lagos. They deceived him and promised him a better life in the UK. He was given a passport for a 41-year-old. The passport was illegally obtained by these defendants.
Ike Ekweremadu, 60, a People’s Democratic Party politician in Nigeria and his wife Nwanneka Ekweremadu, 55, have been held on suspicion of plotting to harvest the organs of a child in the UK
Ekweremadu has been in the UK for at least the past fortnight having met with members of the Nigerian community in Britain in Lincoln (pictured right) and received a copy of the Magna Carta
‘He was provided with a medical travel visa saying the purpose of the travel was to provide medical treatment for the defendants’ daughter who was undergoing dialysis in relation to a number of health issues.
‘It was premeditated, it was planned. Blood tests were obtained in Nigeria and he traveledled to the UK in February this year.
‘He was taken to several medical appointments in particular a medical appointment at the Royal Free Hospital and was spoken to by a consultant about the organ harvesting for a kidney transplant.
‘The consultant was concerned about his actual age and was concerned he was not aware he was the donor of the kidney. He only found out that the purpose of his visit was for an organ transplant when he visited the hospital.
Police were alerted to potential offenses under modern slavery laws last month.
Ekweremadu has been in the UK for at least the past fortnight having met with members of the Nigerian community in Britain in Lincoln around ten days ago.
He tweeted: ‘It was a pleasure and an honor to receive a letter of appointment by the University of Lincoln, UK, as Visiting Professor of Corporate and International Linkages. I also got a highly treasured gift – a copy of the Magna Carta. It was created in 1215, about 807 years ago ‘.
They arrested the couple two days ago at Heathrow Airport as they attempted to board a plane to Turkey – where it was suggested that the procedure could take place – the court heard.
Ekweremadu, 60, is said to have had £ 20,000 on him at the time of his arrest, according to prosecutors.
The child is now under the care of safeguarding authorities and the Metropolitan Police, officials say.
Ekweremadu and accountant wife Beatrice, 55, are charged with conspiracy to arrange or facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting.
The senator was wearing a gray sweater while his wife was wearing a black and white knitted cardigan at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
Prosecutor Damla Ayas said: ‘It is conspiracy in relation to human trafficking offenses for the purposes of organ harvesting. The victim in this case is 15 years old
‘They the couple were interviewed at the police station. Both of the defendants have provided a prepared statement.
‘Mr Ekweremadu in his prepared statement denied allegations of human trafficking.
‘He said at no stage has he arranged transport for anyone with intention to exploit them.’
His wife similarly denied the allegations in her prepared statement, the court heard.
Gavin Irwin, representing Ekweremadu, said: ‘There is no question this is a serious allegation. Mr Ekweremadu is a member of the senate in Nigeria.
‘He has previously held an even more senior role as deputy president of the senate.
‘He is a member of the bar in Nigeria. He is a principal in a law firm that bears his name.
‘Those issues taken together go way beyond him being a person of good character… rather that he has led a blameless life as a public servant.’
Mr Irwin added that the allegations were ‘nothing short of preposterous’.
Antonia Gray, for Mrs Ekweremadu, said: ‘She has never been complicated or involved in any alleged illegal trafficking of any young person.
‘She is a financial accountant… with an unblemished record.’
The couple have an address they could stay at in Willesden, northwest London, the court heard.
The prosecutor made an application to adjourn matters for 14 days.
Ms Ayas said: ‘In respect of these offences Attorney General consent is required and the Crown requires 14 days for that to be obtained.’
Magistrate Lois Sheard said: ‘These are serious allegations and these matters are now adjourned until 7 July back here at Uxbridge.’
Ms Sheard remanded both defendants into custody ahead of their hearing next month.
The Ekweremadus are charged with ‘conspiring to arrange or facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation… .between 1 August 2021 and 5 May 2022 within the jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court’.
Ekweremadu has been an elected senator at the Abuja-based parliament since 2003 after moving into politics after years as a lawyer
The investigation was launched by the Met’s Specialist Crime team after detectives were alerted to potential offenses under modern slavery legislation in May 2022.
The Met Police has confirmed that the boy is safe and being looked after. Mr Ekweremadu was held with Nwanneka Ekweremadu in Britain this month.
Mr Ekweremadu has been an elected senator at the Abuja-based parliament since 2003 after moving into politics after years as a lawyer.
His wife, five years his junior, is an academic and doctor and also a major public figure in Nigeria. They are believed to have four adult children.
The Metropolitan Police has said the child, who is under the age of 18, at the center of the alleged plot is in care.
Organ harvesting involves removing parts of the body, often for cash and against the victim’s will.
The investigation was launched after detectives were alerted to potential offenses under modern slavery legislation in May 2022, the force said.
The couple are two of the most famous faces in the West African state, and had been visiting the UK whe they were arrested
Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, 55, and Ike Ekweremadu, 60, both from Nigeria, have been remanded in custody appeared at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court (pictured)
In 2017 a former Nigerian government minister claimed that migrants from his country were having their organs harvested after being sold into slavery.
Femi Fani-Kayode, a onetime aviation minister in Nigeria, claimed that 75 per cent of slaves who have their organs harvested in North Africa are from his country.
The Cambridge University-educated lawyer added that the victims have their ‘bodies mutilated’ and are ‘roasted like suya [shish kebabs]’. He went on: ‘Roasted alive! This is what Libyans do to sub-Saharan Africans who are looking for a transit point to Europe.
‘They sell them into slavery and either murder, mutilate, torture or work them to death.’