A Nigerian senator and his wife have today appeared in court accused of plotting to traffic a homeless child into the UK in order to harvest his organs.
Ike Ekweremadu, a People’s Democratic Party politician for 19 years who was once Deputy President of the nation’s senate and Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu are accused of trying to traffic the 15-year-old to the UK from Lagos.
The court heard the couple, who have four children and a house in Willesden, North London, hoped to transplant the boy’s organs to their daughter who suffers from kidney failure.
Police had earlier been alerted to potential offences under modern slavery laws last month and arrested the couple two days ago at Heathrow Airport before they flew to Turkey, the court heard.
The child is now under the care of safeguarding authorities and the Metropolitan Police, officials say.
Ekweremadu, 60, and his wife Beatrice, 55, are charged with conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting.
The senator was wearing a grey sweater while his wife was wearing a black and white knitted cardigan at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court today.
Prosecutor Damla Ayas said: ‘It is a conspiracy in relation to human trafficking offences for the purposes of organ harvesting. The victim, in this case, is 15 years old
‘The couple were interviewed at the police station. Both of the defendants have provided a prepared statement.
‘Mr Ekweremadu in his prepared statement denied allegations of human trafficking.
‘He said at no stage has he arranged transport for anyone with the intention to exploit them.’
His wife similarly denied the allegations in her prepared statement, the court heard.
Gavin Irwin, representing Ekweremadu, said: ‘There is no question this is a serious allegation. Mr Ekweremadu is a member of the senate in Nigeria.
‘He has previously held an even more senior role as deputy president of the senate.
‘He is a member of the bar in Nigeria. He is a principal in a law firm that bears his name.
‘Those issues taken together go way beyond him being a person of good character…rather that he has led a blameless life as a public servant.’
Mr Irwin added that the allegations were ‘nothing short of preposterous.
Antonia Gray, for Mrs Ekweremadu, said: ‘She has never been complicit or involved in any alleged illegal trafficking of any young person.
‘She is a financial accountant…with an unblemished record.’
The couple have an address they could stay at in Willesden, northwest London, the court heard.
The prosecutor made an application to adjourn matters for 14 days.
Ms Ayas said: ‘In respect of these offences Attorney General consent is required and the Crown requires 14 days for that to be obtained.’
Magistrate Lois Sheard said: ‘These are serious allegations and these matters are now adjourned until 7 July back here at Uxbridge.’
Ms Sheard remanded both defendants into custody ahead of their hearing next month.
The Ekweremadus are charged with ‘conspiring to arrange or facilitate the travel of another person with a view to exploitation….between 1 August 2021 and 5 May 2022 within the jurisdiction of Central Criminal Court’.
The investigation was launched by the Met’s Specialist Crime team after detectives were alerted to potential offences under modern slavery legislation in May 2022.
The Met Police has confirmed that the boy is safe and being looked after. Mr Ekweremadu was held with Nwanneka Ekweremadu in Britain this month.
Mr Ekweremadu has been an elected senator at the Abuja-based parliament since 2003 after moving into politics after years as a lawyer.
His wife, five years his junior, is an academic and doctor and also a major public figure in Nigeria. They are believed to have four adult children.
The Metropolitan Police has said the child, who is under the age of 18, at the centre of the alleged plot is in care.
Organ harvesting involves removing parts of the body, often for cash and against the victim’s will.
Ekweremadu has been in the UK for at least the past fortnight having met with members of the Nigerian community in Britain in Lincoln around ten days ago.
He tweeted: ‘It was a pleasure and an honour to receive a letter of appointment by the University of Lincoln, UK, as Visiting Professor of Corporate and International Linkages. I also got a highly treasured gift – a copy of the Magna Carta. It was created in 1215, about 807 years ago.
The investigation was launched after detectives were alerted to potential offences under modern slavery legislation in May 2022, the force said.
In 2017 a former Nigerian government minister claimed that migrants from his country were having their organs harvested after being sold into slavery.
Femi Fani-Kayode, a onetime aviation minister in Nigeria, claimed that 75 per cent of slaves who have their organs harvested in North Africa are from his country.
The Cambridge University-educated lawyer added that the victims have their ‘bodies mutilated’ and are ‘roasted like suya [shish kebabs]’. He went on: ‘Roasted alive! This is what Libyans do to sub-Saharan Africans who are looking for a transit point to Europe.
‘They sell them into slavery and either murder, mutilate, torture or work them to death.’