I was told to lie at organ transplant meeting, alleged victim tells UK court
An alleged victim of organ trafficking was instructed to falsely tell a London doctor that he was cousins with the daughter of a Nigerian politician before a meeting about donating his kidney, the Old Bailey has heard.
Appearing in court for the first time, the man, who cannot be named, said he did not know why he had been taken to see the doctor until he mentioned a kidney transplant. “I was shocked because this was first time I heard about it,” he told the jury.
He added: “The doctor told me about the consequences of removing my kidney. They asked me if I was scared of the people who brought me.”
The court has already heard that the meeting at London’s Royal Free hospital in February last year was set up to discuss a potential kidney donation for Sonia Ekweremadu, the daughter of a Nigerian senator, Ike Ekweremadu. The doctor refused to approve the donation.
The day of the meeting “was the first day I heard the name Ekweremadu”, the man told the court via video link.
Ike Ekweremadu, 60, his wife, Beatrice, 56, daughter Sonia, 25, and Dr Obinna Obeta, 51, are accused of conspiring to arrange or facilitate the travel of the man to Britain with a view to harvesting his kidney. They deny the charges.
Before the meeting at the Royal Free, the alleged victim said Obeta and another man told him how to answer the doctor’s questions. “They said I should say that Soni [Sonia] is my cousin,” he said.
Asked by the prosecutor Hugh Davies KC whether they were cousins, the man said: “No, she is not my cousin.”
He said he was also told to deny he had been promised any money. “Obinna told me that if the doctor asked me if they give me money, I should say they did not pay me,” he said.
Earlier, the man said he had been earning between 3,000 and 4,000 naira a day (£5.42 to £7.22) selling phone accessories from a wheelbarrow in a Lagos market when he was approached by Obeta.
Obeta told him he had been given his phone number by a friend of the man. The court has previously heard that the friend had donated a kidney to Obeta in July 2021 at the Royal Free.
The man said Obeta offered to pay for him to travel to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, for tests. “He started talking about coming to London. When he gave me money to go to Abuja, that’s when I knew he was serious,” the man told the court.
He said he was given 20,000 naira (£36) by Obeta to travel by bus to Abuja for the blood tests. “They did not tell me what the tests were for,” the man said. “I thought it was for the visa.”
Asked by Davies what reasons Obeta had given for the need to travel to London, the man said: “He only told me about the work. He asked me not to tell people that I’m coming to the UK.”
Obeta arranged for him to have a passport and a visa to travel to the UK, the court heard. He said: “For me to have visa to travel is good news, because I know when I come I will work.”
Asked why he had thought Obeta was offering to help him, he said: “Because I think he is from God.” When he arrived in London, he stayed in the “parlour” of Obeta’s flat, the court was told.
The court heard that the man was the oldest of nine children from a village in Nigeria. He said he had left school at 15 because his parents had no money, the court heard.
The court was shown a photograph of the man meeting Sonia Ekweremadu in London for the first time, days after he arrived from Nigeria. The man told the court: “I can only remember the girl’s name, she is called Soni. That is the first day that I met them.”