Nigerian senator tells jury in UK organ harvesting trial he never agreed to pay for daughter’s kidney donor

LONDON—A wealthy Nigerian senator on trial for organ harvesting has offered money and “goods” to a young Lagos street trader who was allegedly brought to London to donate a kidney for his seriously ill daughter. He denied that he ever made any promises of “general interest”.

Ike Ekwelemadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, and daughter Sonia, 25, are on trial along with Obinna Obeta, 50, for arranging or facilitating the young man’s travel to the UK and claiming physical damage. He’s been accused of conspiring to exploit a portion of his kidneys. All four have denied the charges.

Ekwelemadu began presenting evidence on Monday afternoon, claiming he told Obeta, the doctor he paid to find a kidney donor for his sick daughter, to “observe the law.”

On Tuesday, he was asked by barrister Martin Hicks, KC: [the donor] Do you offer monetary rewards or do you offer material benefits?”

“I have never agreed, discussed or understood to pay him.

The court reportedly diagnosed Sonia with a serious kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis with nephrotic syndrome, which could only be cured long-term by a kidney transplant.

Ike Ekwemadu
Vice President of the Nigerian Senate Ike Ekweremadu (left) and Senate Speaker Bukola Saraki (right) in Abuja, Nigeria on June 27, 2016. (Philip Ojisua AFP via Getty Images)

Prosecutors say a 21-year-old street trader from Lagos (who cannot be named for legal reasons) was brought to London on the promise of a better life in the UK and later died in one of his kidneys. It claims to have been offered for up to £7,000.

The defendant allegedly falsely claimed that he was Sonia’s cousin’s cousin, but nephrologists at London’s Royal Free Hospital rejected him as a donor after becoming suspicious.

In a witness box on Tuesday, Ekwelemadu said he was unaware that documents stating that Sonia and Street Trader were cousins ​​had been tampered with until he was arrested in June 2022.

Hicks asked him about the legal affidavit that had been drawn up and included Sonia’s signature.

He said he knew nothing about it.

“Fake?” Hicks asked.

“Of course it’s fake,” he replied.

Ekwelemadu told jurors in January 2022 that he felt people were exploiting him and his daughter.Ekwelemadu originally came to the UK to study at the University of Newcastle.

Hicks asked him, “Why didn’t you say stop at this point?”

‘My daughter’s life was at stake’

Ekwelemadu replied: I have to continue because if I quit, I will endanger her life. But everyone took advantage of her daughter’s illness. ”

He said the street trader was eventually brought to London by Ekwele Madhu’s brother Diwe, who was a former classmate of Obeta’s in medical school.

The young man was scheduled to undergo further tests to see if he would be a suitable kidney donor.

When a street trader gave evidence to court last month, he said no one had told him about the kidney transplant before he arrived at a London hospital.

Hicks asked the senator if he was present at the February 2022 lunch where street traders met Sonia and Beatrice Ekwemadu for the first time.

“It wasn’t me. I was in Nigeria,” Ekwemadu replied, adding: ”

Epoch Times photo
On 31 January 2023, Beatrice Ekwemadu, wife of former Nigerian Senate Deputy Speaker Ike Ekwemadu, will leave the Old Bailey, London’s Central Criminal Court. (Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

Hicks asked him about his daughter’s appointment with Dr. Peter Dupont, a nephrologist at the Royal Free Hospital.

Ekwelemadu said: [the street trader] She said she was a cousin. I said, ‘Why did you do that?'”

He said Sonia said she was advised by Dr Chris Agbo, a British consultant who was paid to advise the family on transplant surgery, to say they were cousins. if authorities believed they were related.

Ekwelemadu recalled her daughter saying, “Everyone is trying to save my life.”

Hicks then asked him about the Igbo NHS interpreter involved in the street trader’s hospital visit in London.

NHS interpreters refuse to offer £1,500 to ‘coach’ donors

Mr Ekwelemadu said his brother had told him that the woman had offered to help “tutor the boy” on what to say at the second meeting and demanded £1,500.

“I never paid her nor gave anyone else permission to pay her,” the senator said.

After being rejected by a street vendor as a donor, he left the small Beta house where he was staying.

When he gave his evidence last week, Obeta said he was told by his brother that he had decided to stay in the UK as he had time left on his visa.

Ekwelemadu said he was offended by this.

He said it could “damage” his reputation in Nigeria and that if the street trader extended his medical visa, it would be nearly impossible to get another visa for a second donor. .

Ekwelemadu said the family then began to pursue the possibility after learning that a transplant in Turkey was cheaper and that authorities did not ask about the donor-recipient’s family ties.

Hicks asked him about a second donor in line for a transplant in Turkey.

“was [he] Willing Donor? asked the lawyer.

“He was a willing donor…and he met me at the hospital [in Abuja] When I spoke to him, he happily agreed to donate a kidney to my daughter.

The court heard that Ike and Beatrice Ekwemadu were arrested after flying from Turkey to London on June 20, 2022.

Ekwelemadu told jurors on Tuesday that he had just turned down the race to become governor of Nigeria’s Enugu state and decided to visit his daughter.

On Monday, Hicks asked Ike Ekwelemadu why a young man from Lagos wanted to donate a kidney for free and asked if he knew the term “stranger altruism.”

Ekwelemadu said, “It was legal for people to donate kidneys, but it had to be out of their own compassion. It had to be altruistic.”

“We knew it was possible because of the nature of our society and the level of compassion. Nigeria is a very compassionate society,” he added.

The trial was postponed until Wednesday, when Ekwelemadu will be cross-examined.

PA Media contributed to this report.