UK court finds Nigerian senator guilty of organ harvesting plot

Ike Ekweremadu

Nigeria's Deputy President of the Senate Ike Ekweremadu (left) during a past event. 

Photo credit: AFP

A  London jury has found Nigeria's former deputy Senate president guilty of plotting to harvest a street trader's kidney for his sick daughter, in the first UK case of its kind.

Ike Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, and a doctor, Obinna Obeta, 50, were on Thursday found guilty at the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, of conspiring to exploit the young man from Lagos for his body part.

The Ekweremadus' daughter Sonia, 25, shed tears as she was cleared of the same charge after jurors deliberated for nearly 14 hours.

It was the first time organ harvesting conspiracy charges had been brought under the UK's 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

The maximum sentence under the legislation is life imprisonment. Sentencing was adjourned until May 5.

In Britain, it is legal to donate a kidney but not for a reward.

During the weeks-long trial, the 21-year-old victim from Lagos, who cannot be named for legal reasons, testified that the Ekweremadus flew him to Britain to harvest his kidney.

The kidney was said to be intended for Sonia, who remains on dialysis with a renal condition, in a plot in which up to £7,000 ($8,430) would be paid for it.

The former street trader alleged that he was recruited by a doctor working for the politician, and thought he was coming to the UK to work.

He only realised it was for a kidney transplant when he was taken to London's Royal Free Hospital last year, the court was told.

He fled and slept on the streets for three days after doctors there told him he would not be a suitable donor following preliminary tests.

He eventually walked into a police station last May and said he was "looking for someone to save my life", the court heard.

Lawyers for the four accused insisted he was acting "altruistically" and when Ike Ekweremadu gave evidence he told jurors that he feared he was being "scammed".