A high-ranking Nigerian politician tried to bring a street vendor to the UK to harvest his kidney because it was “much better to buy it” than to find a family member to donate an organ, a court heard.
Prosecutor Hugh Davies KC accused Ike Ekweremadu, an opposition senator in Nigeria who has an address in London, of not approaching family members because he wanted the “medical risk” to fall to someone he did not know.
Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, Daughter Sonia, 25, and medical ‘broker’ Dr Obinna Obeta, 50, are on trial at the Old Bailey in connection with an alleged conspiracy to bring a young man to the UK to donate a kidney.
Prosecutors said a 21-year-old street peddler from Lagos, Nigeria, was offered up to £7,000 and the promise of a better life if he went to London, posing as Sonia’s cousin, to get a visa Great Britain.
The man’s kidney would then be removed at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead in the north Londonbefore he was transplanted to Sonia, who has a “significant and deteriorating” kidney condition, prosecutors said.
The alleged donor did not understand until his first meeting with the consultant at the hospital that he was there for a kidney transplant, as jurors had been told at the previous trial.
When he was rejected as unsuitable, allegedly Equermadus shifted their interest to Turkey and began looking for another donor.
The consultant said the street peddler had a “limited understanding” of what he was there for and was “visibly relieved” to hear the transplant would not take place, the court heard.
“You don’t lack intelligence”
Ekweremadu was asked in a hearing today why he didn’t try to find a suitable partner among his family members instead of trying to buy a kidney.
The politician said he believed that was not possible after learning of a conversation between his brother Diwe and Dr Obeta in September 2021.
Prosecutor Davies said: “Regarding the question of whether a family member can in principle act as a donor, you have decided that this is not possible based on a reported conversation between your non-nephrologist brother and Dr Obeta, a non-nephrologist?”
The defendant said: “He would have had basic knowledge. I’m not a doctor, so if he says that, I believe him.”
But Mr Davies said: “All you had to do, rather than rely on second-hand accounts from non-nephrologists, was ask one of the specialists you consulted if a family member could donate a kidney.”
Ekweremadu implied that he had “limited intelligence”.
The prosecutor dismissed the charge, saying: “It’s unbelievable. You don’t lack intelligence.
“The fact is, you didn’t even try to get Sonia’s cousins to consider becoming a donor.
“You mean to say that you had no intention that anyone in your family, immediate or extended, would donate a kidney to Sonia.
“It’s much better to buy one and let the medical risk pass to someone you don’t know.”
“Those are not facts”
Ekweremadu said it was “not true” that he had agreed through agents to recruit a donor to give a kidney to his daughter in exchange for a reward.
Mr Davies said: “The communication pattern does not reflect the kind of communication and human contact you would expect if you and your family believed that [the proposed donor] he was a good Samaritan.”
Equeremadu repeated, “Not true.”
But Mr Davies asserted: “Graft with [the donor] without moving forward, you and your family immediately sought further donors for compensation, shifting jurisdiction from the UK to Turkey.
“That also failed because even this donor was not properly trained to give false answers during the interview.”
The accused replied: “These are not facts.”
Mr Davies said: “You didn’t walk away from the Royal Free clinical team because they lacked knowledge.
“When another donor was needed, you immediately tried to move the clinical process to Turkey.”
Mr Davies asked why Ekweremadus were willing to leave an “internationally recognized center of excellence” in London for an unknown amount in Turkey.
Ekweremadu suggested that treatment in Turkey is “cheaper”.
Read more from the court:
Hospital secretary ‘assisted failed kidney donation attempt’
Mr Davies replied: “You wanted to shorten your daughter’s clinical results to save money? You were a rich man, Senator.”
The defendant, who owns dozens of properties in Nigeria and Dubai and sends his children to private education, denied being wealthy.
But Mr. Davies said, “That’s not true. Think about the number of properties you own.
He went on to suggest that Beatrice Ekweremadu, who has a PhD, was consciously interested in what was going on “from start to finish”.
The prosecutor said: “How would Sonia’s treatment not be the dominant discussion in the family? What was more important?
Ekweremadu replied, “I have other responsibilities to my family and other people.”
Mr Davies said: “What other issue had any level of importance in relation to your daughter’s potentially life-limiting and life-ending condition?”
The three Equermadus, who have an address in Willesden Green, north-west London, and Dr Obeta, from Southwark, deny conspiring to arrange or facilitate the young man’s trip for use between August 2021 and last May.
The process continues.