A wealthy Nigerian politician and his wife have been jailed for plotting to traffic a young man to the UK to harvest his organ for their sick daughter in a legal first.
Following a landmark modern slavery case, multi-millionaire Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, and medical “middleman” Dr Obinna Obeta, 51, were found guilty at the Old Bailey in March.
Their victim, a poor street trader in Lagos, was brought to the UK to provide a kidney for the Ekweremadus’ 25-year-old daughter Sonia.
He fled in fear of his life and walked into a police station exactly a year ago to report what had happened after the Royal Free Hospital called a halt on the private £80,000 procedure.
In a televised sentencing on Friday, Mr Justice Johnson recognised Ike Ekweremadu’s “substantial fall from grace” as he jailed him for nine years and eight months.
Beatrice Ekweremadu was jailed for four years and six months and Obeta for 10 years.
The senior judge said: “People-trafficking across international borders for the harvesting of human organs is a form of slavery.
“It treats human beings and their body parts as commodities to be bought and sold.
“It is a trade that preys on poverty, misery and desperation.”
He told the defendants: “You each played a part in that despicable trade.”
On the question of harm to the victim if the intended transplant went ahead, he said: “He would have faced spending the rest of his life with only one kidney and without the requisite funding for the required aftercare.”
He added the risks had not been properly explained and there had been no consent “in any meaningful sense”.
During the hearing, the victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said he only found out what was planned when he was taken to the north London hospital for an initial consultation.
In a statement read to court: “I would never (have) agreed to any of this.
“My body is not for sale.”
He spoke of his fears for his own safety and that of his family in Nigeria who had been visited and told to “drop” the case.
He said: “I cannot think about going home to Nigeria.
“These people are extremely powerful and I worry for my family.
“Even though I live here in the UK at the moment I know I need to be careful too.
“I have no-one here, no family, no friends.”