A senior Nigerian politician accused of plotting to arrange an illegal kidney transplant for his sick daughter in the UK claimed he is a “victim”, a court has heard.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, daughter Sonia, 25, and medical “middleman” Dr Obinna Obeta, 50, are on trial at the Old Bailey over an alleged plot to bring a young man to Britain for his body part.
It is alleged the 21-year-old street trader from Lagos was to be paid up to £7,000 with the promise of opportunities in the UK in exchange for donating a kidney to Sonia Ekweremadu.
He was falsely presented as Sonia’s cousin in a failed bid to persuade medics at the Royal Free Hospital in London to carry out the £80,000 private procedure, the Old Bailey has heard.
When he was rejected as unsuitable, it is alleged the Ekweremadus transferred their interest to Turkey and set about finding another donor.
Cross-examining the senator, prosecutor Hugh Davies KC said: “According to you, you are the victim in all of this.”
“You have seen it,” the defendant responded.
Ike Ekweremadu claimed he was “scammed” by medics involved.
He admitted facilitating the travel of the 21-year-old to the UK and within the UK, but insisted he did this “without the intention of exploiting” and “without giving any reward” in exchange for a kidney.
The politician added that he did not pay the 21-year-old, did not arrange for him to remain in England after the operation and only facilitated his travel to the UK to have medical assessments done.
Jurors heard about other potential donors being lined up after the 21-year-old was rejected as unsuitable.
Text exchanges between the Ekweremadus were read out in court in which these new potential donors were referred to as “the dark one” and “the light one”.
Mr Davies said: “This is the language of commodity isn’t it, not altruism?”
The senator replied: “They are Nigerians. They are responsible Nigerians. They are my brothers.”
He added: “Nigeria is a very compassionate society.”
He told jurors that he was “never” concerned about any possible exploitation of these donors because “they are Nigerians who wanted to help”.
Asked why the family’s interests turned to Turkey, Ike Ekweremadu said they discovered it was significantly cheaper to do a transplant in Turkey than in the UK.
Mr Davies told him: “Senator, you cannot plead poverty. You had the money.”
The prosecutor argued that the family turned to Turkey because they could not go back to the Royal Free Hospital in London with another donor with “any credibility”.
Ike Ekweremadu has finished giving evidence.
The Ekweremadus, who have an address in Willesden Green, north-west London, and Dr Obeta, from Southwark, south London, deny the charge against them and the Old Bailey trial continues.