Nigerian senator guilty of trafficking man to UK to provide a kidney

LONDON (Reuters) - Nigerian senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife have been found guilty of trafficking a man to Britain to provide his kidney to their ill daughter, Britain's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said on Thursday.

Ekweremadu, 60, and his wife Beatrice, 56, were found guilty of conspiring to exploit a street trader from Lagos, who was offered a reward of up to 3.5 million naira (6,200 pounds or $7,600) for his kidney.

Nigerian doctor Obinna Obeta, 51, described by prosecutors as a middle man, was also convicted at London's Old Bailey on Thursday.

Sonia Ekweremadu, the intended recipient of the organ who has a serious and deteriorating kidney condition and requires dialysis, was found not guilty of any part in the conspiracy.

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

"The convicted 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."

Prosecutors told jurors at the Old Bailey that Ike Ekweremadu, a former deputy senate president, and his wife were significant figures in Nigerian society with power, influence, a "significant degree of wealth" and international connections.

"There are however certain things that money and status cannot guarantee in any family, and they include good health," prosecutor Hugh Davies said.

Davies told the court that Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu came up with the plan to arrange a transplant for Sonia and recruited the proposed donor in Lagos, where he worked in markets selling telephone parts from a cart.

The would-be donor said he did not understand that he had been taken to London for a kidney transplant until his first screening appointment at the Royal Free Hospital, Davies added.

Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu and Obeta will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on May 5.

The Metropolitan Police said the guilty verdicts mark the first time someone has been convicted in Britain of human trafficking for the purpose of organ harvesting.

"This conviction sends out a clear message across the world, the UK will not tolerate the international industry in illegal organ removal," Detective Inspector Esther Richardson, from the Met's Modern Slavery and Child Exploitation team, said in a statement.

(Reporting by William James and Sam Tobin, Editing by Paul Sandle and Hugh Lawson)

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