An Organ-Trafficking Plot Lands a Nigerian Senator in a UK Prison

Trial in London's Old Bailey reveals how Ike Ekweremadu's plan to harvest a victim's kidney unfolded

An Organ-Trafficking Plot Lands a Nigerian Senator in a UK Prison
Beatrice Ekweremadu (R), wife of Nigeria’s former deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, leaves the Old Bailey, London’s Central Criminal Court, on Jan. 31, 2023. (Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

Apart from the small sign and blue Victorian-style lantern outside, there is little to distinguish the police station in Staines, England, from any other modern office block. Most people wouldn’t have looked twice at the young man trudging through its front door on a cold, cloudy afternoon in May 2022. Footage from a police officer’s body camera that was later played in court shows the man frowning and gesticulating. “I don’t know anywhere, I don’t know where I am,” he exclaims in halting English.

Staines is just a few miles from Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest airports, yet the officer asks if the man has arrived by boat. The man explains that, after escaping from an apartment in south London, he walked there. “I was sleeping three days outside … for someone to help me, save my life.” The police officer took notes at the time, which were later read in court: “1.2m[illion] promised Nigerian money. Whatever I said at the hospital isn’t truth because they guided me.” The young man continues, raising his voice: “I don’t know anything about the kidney.”

The frantic testimony he gave over the next few hours would culminate in the dramatic downfall of one of Nigeria’s most prominent political families. In March 2023, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, his wife Beatrice and Dr. Obinna Obeta were convicted of conspiring to harvest the man’s organs, in the first such case tried under modern slavery laws introduced in 2015 in the U.K. The couple’s daughter Sonia, for whom the kidney was intended, was found not guilty. In the process of issuing a landmark prosecution decision, the trial exposed a Dickensian juxtaposition of affluence and deprivation in Africa’s most populous country. It also shone light on the U.K.’s continuing role in facilitating corruption. And, not least, it raised troubling questions about the prevalence of this macabre form of exploitation hiding in plain sight.

In the rough-and-tumble Nigerian political scene, Ike Ekweremadu was a survivor. He obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law, as well as a doctorate in philosophy, and entered local politics shortly before the country’s transition from military rule in 1999. He rose to become the highest-ranking office holder in the People’s Democratic Party, serving five terms as a senator and three as the Senate’s deputy president. His influence extended internationally. In 2011, he was elected Speaker of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and, in 2021, represented Nigeria at the COP26 (Conference of the Parties) on climate change in Glasgow. But then, having previously announced that he would not be running for the Senate, in 2022 he also withdrew from the race to become governor of the state of Enugu.

He is married to Beatrice, who holds a doctorate in accountancy and worked in the auditor general’s office. The couple have four children. In 2019, their 25-year-old daughter Sonia dropped out of postgraduate studies at Newcastle University in northern England to battle a deteriorating kidney condition called FSGS (focal segmental glomerulosclerosis). A genetic issue rendered medication ineffective, and her condition worsened, requiring exhausting five-hour dialysis sessions three times a week. In late August 2021, the senator messaged Sonia’s uncle, his brother, Dr. Isaac “Diwe” Ekweremadu: “I think we should also start the process of looking for a donor.” The hunt for a fresh kidney had begun.

In the U.K., organ donors may be reimbursed for expenses and lost wages, but any financial or material advantage is forbidden. A 2021 Interpol report warned that criminals “target and coerce victims to sell their organs, profiting off impoverished populations and communities where youth unemployment is prevalent and health care is limited.” Apart from Iran, which has an approved market, the organ trade is outlawed worldwide. The World Health Organization reports that up to 10% of organ transplants around the world may use illegally sourced organs. The Washington, D.C. think tank Global Financial Integrity estimates that the illicit trade may generate up to $1.7 billion annually. It is one of the least reported forms of trafficking, so data is scarce. Popular mental images of organ trafficking are of kidnapping, shady backstreets and people waking up with surgical scars. That happens. But the procurement of body parts also occurs in far more insidious ways.

Poverty and desperation create fertile ground for the organ trade. Nigerian media reports are full of cautionary tales. Nigeria’s anti-trafficking agency issues regular warnings not to be tricked or tempted to sell vital organs. The potential lifelong aftercare for donors costs far more than the means of most Nigerians. But for some, the prospect of life-changing reward obscures the life-threatening risks; hence laws are made to protect desperate people from becoming participants in their own exploitation. Senator Ekweremadu was part of the legislature that passed them in Nigeria.

From phone messages shown to the court, it appears that the senator’s brother Diwe oversaw the day-to-day process of finding a donor. This helped to create distance between the senator and the ballooning cast of nefarious characters who were added to the conspirators’ payroll. It also provided him with plausible deniability. Despite his leading role, Diwe did not give evidence in the six-week trial at the Old Bailey, the U.K.’s oldest criminal court. He is believed to be in Nigeria and has not been extradited, even though he may hold British citizenship. During the trial, a source close to the investigation told me that, in Nigeria, “nobody touches the Ekweremadus.”

Diwe worked his contacts and found Dr. Obinna Obeta, a radiologist from Enugu state in Nigeria and a former medical school classmate, who happened to be in London. What exactly was discussed between the two doctors may never be known, but the trial revealed that, in September 2021, Diwe told his brother that Obeta required Sonia’s blood type and other details, along with 1 million Nigerian naira ($2,100) to “start the search and screen immediately” for a “suitable candidate.” The senator agreed, and the money was paid.

The donor whom Obeta recruited, and who cannot be named for legal reasons, is the oldest of nine children born to a carpenter father and a homemaker mother in a remote village without running water or electricity. At age 15, he dropped out of school and headed to Lagos to join an uncle at a market stall. By the age of 21, he was selling phone parts and earning around 4,000 Nigerian naira ($8) on a good day — above the minimum wage but hardly prosperous, unless compared to the 40% of Nigerians living in poverty. When Obeta found him through a contact at the market, he offered vague promises of work in the U.K. before using various middlemen to ferry him around Nigeria for medical tests. The young man, who had never ventured beyond Lagos and his village, assumed these were normal requirements for international travel.

In November 2021, the senator’s brother forwarded him a message from Obeta. “The guy matched very well for the transplant. He is free of viral infections. We will proceed with this guy.” After their arrest, the defendants’ phones were examined by British police, who downloaded all of the relevant data and printed it out for the court. A year-long conspiracy appeared, conveniently documented on WhatsApp, including Diwe updating the senator with Obeta’s request for the “agent fee” of 1 million naira ($2,100) and the “donor fee” of 3.5 million naira ($7,600). The senator noted it with an “OK.” Not much money for some but, for the donor, around eight years’ work.

The donor would never see this money.

In the WhatsApp exchanges, the defendants rarely referred to the donor by name. For the most part, he was simply “the boy.” The messages contained no expressions of gratitude. He was, in fact, merely one among a collection of candidates being marshaled to clinics across Nigeria to be tested for transplant compatibility. There was an ominous silence about where this legion of generous individuals was being sourced. Throughout the trial, these anonymous people floated in and out of evidence like ghosts. Even when the donor was approved, the senator asked his brother to test others for “backup.”

The donor was someone, the defense would argue, willing to cross the globe to give a vital organ free of charge. But, at the time, the guilty parties invented a familial relationship. The donor’s visa application read: “I would be donating an organ to my closest cousin (Sonia) in appreciation for her sacrifices towards me, my family and our community; I am willing to put my life on the line for her to live and continue her good service to humanity.”

British immigration authorities impose onerous criteria on many of the U.K.’s former colonial subjects for obtaining a visa. Because evidence is required that a person is able to support themselves financially during their stay in the U.K., a young Nigerian market hawker would almost certainly never be granted a visa — unless he had letters of recommendation from a high-ranking Nigerian politician-sponsor and an esteemed London doctor. The application was submitted online and approved. The donor would later say: “I’ve never used my hand to fill any form.”

Once the donor’s visa was secured, he was put on a flight to London, carrying little more than the clothes on his back. Diwe told the senator that Obeta would keep the donor “in the house for close monitoring until the procedure is over.” Lodged at Obeta’s apartment in south London, the donor slept on a sofa in the living room. The next day, he was taken by his host to meet the proposed beneficiary of his kidney and her mother, Beatrice, at a nearby African restaurant. The prosecution called this a “contrived lunch,” purely to obtain a photograph of Sonia and the donor together that would be used as false evidence of a family relationship. The donor claimed he was barely spoken to.

When consultant nephrologist Dr. Dupont first met the donor at the private renal clinic on the 12th floor of the Royal Free Hospital, he observed that his English was limited. A tall, smartly dressed man — reportedly Diwe — offered to help, but Dupont declined his offer, explaining that the interpreter had to be independent. The U.K. transplant regulator, the Human Tissue Authority, informs donors that “translation support is available for you throughout the detailed assessment process.”

At the rescheduled meeting, Dupont met the donor alone using his Igbo-speaking medical secretary. Dupont had immediate doubts. The purported relationship between the cousins seemed “distant.” The donor had met Sonia as a child, and they had not spoken directly since, which Dupont thought “incongruous.” The donor appeared “subdued.” He later claimed this was the first time he understood that he was being asked to donate a kidney.

“I didn’t feel he had any proper understanding of the nature of what he was signing up to,” Dupont said. Upon learning that the donor’s parents were mere market traders, Dupont thought that the wealth disparity between them and the recipients raised another red flag. Could the donor’s family afford the ongoing post-op healthcare their son would need? “It creates a risk of financial coercion,” Dupont explained. A second interview with a surgeon was booked, but Dupont had already made up his mind. “It was a straight no.” When the doctor informed him that they would not use him as an organ donor, according to Dupont, the donor was visibly relieved.

The plotters went into crisis management. The donor claims that Obeta offered him 1.2 million naira ($2,600) as an incentive to perform his part better. Evelyn “Ebere” Agbasonu, the Igbo interpreter used in the first interview, is a longstanding member of the clinic, with almost 26 years of service. The conspiracy was about to entangle her as well. The senator had received a message from his brother. “I’ve met the Igbo interpreter. She agreed to work with us. She will be involved in coaching the boy.”

Agbasonu apparently accepted £1,500 ($1,800) to manipulate the donor’s interview. She would provide the family with key information ahead of the interview and would guide the donor’s answers during it. According to messages sent by Diwe, after the interview with the surgeon took place, the interpreter reported back that the donor had performed better but was still “showing so much timidity” that she “covered up for him and added the words as much as possible.” Nevertheless, the surgeon wasn’t convinced, and Sonia was told the donor was unsuitable. The Royal Free Hospital will not say whether Agbasonu is under investigation.

In court, the senator apologized for perpetuating the falsehood that the donor was a family member but claimed that the lie was not corrupt, merely “expedient.” The family was facing an acute health crisis and the parents had done what any parent would do. A message from Ekweremadu’s daughter Sonia was sent to the family WhatsApp group days before her parents were arrested, which read: “Happy Father’s Day daddy you mean the world to us. You are the best father in the world I hope one day I’ll be able to take care of you and mummy the way you’ve taken care of us all these years.”

Sonia never got the transplant, and her lawyers admitted that, due to the publicity of this case, she may struggle ever to receive one. The court recessed twice a week throughout the trial so that she could have dialysis treatments. On March 23, a sharp sigh of relief came from the dock when the jury acquitted her, followed by weeping as her mother was found guilty, along with the senator and Obeta. On May 5, 2023, Senator Ekweremadu was sentenced to nine years and eight months in prison, Obeta to 10 years, and Beatrice to four years and six months.

Although the initial plan was thwarted and the final result was three convictions, the actions of the conspirators following the donor’s rejection shed light on the extent of organ harvesting. The way the case ultimately came to police attention suggests that the problem may be more widespread than authorities have acknowledged.

After the London gambit failed, the search for another donor resumed immediately. The senator, vowing to “get it right this time,” sent an image to the family WhatsApp group of two young black men staring blankly into the camera: more potential donors. His daughter joked: “The dark one looks better the light one looks like he might run away.”

“Who were they?” demanded Prosecutor Hugh Davies, K.C., during the senator’s cross-examination. “Why didn’t you refer to them by name? This is the language of commodity, not altruism.”

“They are responsible Nigerians,” the senator protested. “They are my brothers.” Yet no names were forthcoming. They were admirers of the Ekweremadus, willing to offer their kidneys to Sonia for no reward, according to the defense. A pool of impoverished young Nigerians had been groomed by the senator’s henchmen for reward, said the prosecution.

The prosecution’s case was given force by a mysterious voice message played to the jury, which had been sent to the senator by an adviser. An unknown woman referred to a man’s unsuccessful visa interview at the Turkish Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, due to his “not being able to say the right things or answer properly.” It sounded like she had originally lined up the man in question for the London plot, but was instead coaching him, on short notice, for the same scheme in Turkey. “I have been in this for 10 years or more,” the voice reveals, “so I am sure I don’t have any issue with anyone. Do you understand?”

The senator claimed that he never listened to the message and did not know who made it. Meanwhile, Sonia’s medical team cautioned her against going to Turkey. “Leaving the ethics aside and the variable quality of care, they’ll get a poorly matched kidney … which may compromise transplant outcome,” they wrote, adding, “I would also worry that they are going down the commercial transplant route.”

The case clearly shows that this was not the first time that such a plot was hatched in the U.K. — a penniless young man from Lagos, inventing a familial relationship, falsifying visa applications and lying to doctors. The Ekweremadus were using a successful model tried the year before, at the same hospital, with the same doctors, using the same interpreter. It’s exactly how Obeta got his own kidney transplant.

Born in Enugu state in 1971, Obinna Obeta was a local boy who made good. He established the first hospital in his community, employing dozens of people, all while growing up in post-civil-war Nigeria and battling chronic kidney disease. But by 2019, his ailment had progressed into end-stage kidney failure, which a few years prior had claimed the life of his mother. Faced with the rudimentary facilities in his part of Enugu — the state that Senator Ekweremadu hoped to govern — the diagnosis was, in his own words, “a death sentence.”

Reaching out to his contacts worldwide, he found Dr. Chris Agbo, a Nigerian consultant nephrologist working in the English city of Cambridge. On the side, Agbo ran a company called Vintage Health, which facilitated foreign patients’ treatment in private British hospitals, and duly arranged Obeta’s transplant. A GoFundMe page and a large contribution from his banker brother secured Obeta some of the hospital costs, so all that remained was to find a kidney. Another donor (who also cannot be named for legal reasons), similarly young and poor and hustling on the streets of Lagos, was tested, provided with false documents, flown to the U.K., coached by the same interpreter and put in front of the same clinicians at the same hospital.

This time, it worked. Obeta got his kidney, and his donor got a free ticket to London.

Obeta, however, was still saddled with thousands of pounds of hospital debt. The prosecution argued that his financial distress helped to inspire his involvement in the Ekweremadu scheme and would lead to the sinister denouement of the case.

The donor, who was staying with Obeta, recounted that two men came to Obeta’s apartment one day. They asked him to lie down and remove his shirt, after which they began pressing his stomach. When they went downstairs, he overheard them discussing the feasibility of carrying out the transplant back in Nigeria. He had already been tested. Why not attempt to profit further from this continuing asset?

“All I know is that what they are up to is to get a kidney,” the donor said. He fled the apartment, wandering the streets and sleeping in bushes for two nights before walking into Staines police station. Six weeks later, the senator and his wife were arrested by police after flying into Heathrow Airport. The following month, Obeta was arrested at home.

The trial gave the persistent impression that elite-level organ trafficking may have been rumbling away in London hospitals undisturbed for years. In correspondence with the Royal Free Hospital, Agbo alluded to previous transplants his company had sent their way “without any form of incentive” and hoped that this time they would be “treated differently and fairly.”

Agbo is currently being investigated by the General Medical Council, who say they have put restrictions on his practice. The Human Tissue Authority told me that they had referred “less than five” cases to the police since 2006. Obeta’s scheme had slipped through the net, however. How many others did as well?

“You may think that if there’s a lesson to be learned here,” prosecutor Davies said in his closing remarks, “that those clinicians need to set their index of suspicion for safeguarding somewhat lower.”

What we do know is that organ harvesting persists throughout the world, particularly in countries with established health systems, lax regulation and high corruption.

Hours after the verdict came down and the guilty trio had been driven through the rain-sodden London streets to their respective jail cells to await sentencing, Dr. Ebun Bamgboye was at his office in Lagos giving a presentation on the outlook for kidney transplantation in Africa to an audience of esteemed nephrologists. His assessment was bleak. Using one teaching hospital in Nigeria as an example, he showed that more than half the patients with kidney failure cannot afford their care beyond one week, with the result that almost 90% of them die within one month.

Bamgboye’s renal unit at St. Nicholas’ Hospital in Lagos conducted Nigeria’s first kidney transplant on March 6, 2000. More than 1,300 have been successfully performed, 500 in the last three years. But despite good progress, there is still a long way to go in a country of 220 million and rising.

I asked Bamgboye about the likelihood that a donor would come forward to donate a kidney to a perfect stranger for no reward. The defense counsel at the trial in England claimed at one point that Igbo culture was known to be unusually generous, which meant that donating a kidney was not surprising.

“Extremely, extremely rare,” Bamgboye laughed. “We only accept first- or second-degree relatives; anything else gets referred to our ethics committee. There have been instances where we have felt uncomfortable about the stated relationship, and the committee has refused the donation.” All transplants in Nigeria to date have used live donors. Despite the extreme cultural sensitivities, Bamgboye says that a list of people willing to donate their organs after death is sorely needed if patients are to have a chance of survival. “One person could give their heart, lungs, liver and each kidney to five different people,” he explained.

Dr. Bamgboye helped establish the 2008 Istanbul declaration, which urges nations to establish a legal and professional framework to regulate organ donation and transplants, in order to protect vulnerable donors from exploitation by the wealthy. But it will continue to be an uphill battle as long as countries’ health systems are kept in such a decrepit state by underinvestment and graft that even their ailing leaders don’t dare to use them. The result is that other countries, such as England, become destinations both for treatment and for the revenue derived from the corrupt practices.

Nigerian politicians are no strangers to British healthcare. Outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari flew to London for months at a time throughout his tenure, to be treated for undisclosed ailments. President-elect Bola Tinubu posted a video of himself on an exercise bike last year to dispel rumors that he was bedridden in a London hospital. Nigeria’s Supreme Court Justice was recently in the U.K. for medical care, according to the Nigerian press. Recent government reports have estimated that Nigerians spend up to $1.6 billion annually on outbound medical tourism due to their own poor domestic health facilities.

London is also a dependable harbor for the proceeds of kleptocracy. According to a review of Senator Ekweremadu’s 2016 book “Who Will Love My Country: Ideas for Building the Nigeria of Our Dreams,” Ekweremadu laments the depth of corruption in the country and advocates the establishment of specialized courts to curb the menace. The reviewer (who is described as a special adviser to the author) quotes the senator regarding public servants, who are “exposed to pressures that can overpower even the strongest human beings, thereby disorientating their moral compass as they watch their bosses luxuriate in ill-gotten wealth.”

Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been probing the senator’s financial affairs for years. In 2018, they alleged that the senator was linked to as many as 40 properties around the world, including in Nigeria, the U.S., the U.K. and the United Arab Emirates. The court heard from the prosecution that the total purchase value of the properties is estimated to be around £6 million ($7.5 million).

The judge said during his sentencing that the wealth and power disparity between the senator and the donor “could not be more marked.” The senator has consistently disputed these claims and denies corruption. In court, he said that he earned every penny. His legal defense team referred to numerous good character references provided by senior figures in Nigerian political and religious circles, including former presidents and archbishops.

Investigators have linked the senator and his family to a large house in north London, another in Cambridge and an apartment in central London. Together, their value totals several million pounds. In public records, the apartment is linked to the Ikeoha Foundation, the senator’s charity established to serve the “educational and health needs of families living in poverty and below the radar.” The Ekweremadu children attended expensive British private schools. In WhatsApp messages seen by the court, a reference is made to a passport from St. Kitts and Nevis, a notorious offshore tax haven. Had the senator’s daughter’s transplant in London gone ahead, it could have cost up to £80,000.

In a defiant performance on the witness stand, Ekweremadu explained that the family was choosing Turkey for his daughter’s operation for reasons of cost. At this, the prosecutor scoffed, “Senator, you cannot plead poverty. You had the money.”

During the trial, the senator had claimed, “I am not a wealthy man.”

Upon their arrest at Heathrow airport, however, the Ekweremadus were reported by police to have been found with around £30,000 ($38,000) in cash. During sentencing and subsequent conversations about court costs, Judge Jeremy Johnson, K.C., remarked that bank statements showed around £400,000 ($500,000) going into the senator’s account over a six-month period.

London’s palatial properties have been so useful to those channeling ill-gotten wealth that campaigners once launched “corruption tours” around the city. Matthew Page (a former U.S. intelligence Nigeria expert and now an Associate Fellow at the Chatham House think tank) helped run the tours. In 2020, he published a detailed report on the alleged global property portfolios of the Nigerian elite — including Ekweremadu. He says that the British authorities were made aware of concerns about the senator’s spending years ago. “If the U.K. government had this information,” Page told me, “it bears some responsibility for this trafficking incident by failing to act preventatively. It should focus their mind on how they issue visas to politically exposed people.”

As a leading activist, Olanrewaju Suraju knows firsthand the risks of investigating corruption in Nigeria. Last year, gunmen stormed his apartment, hospitalized him and his wife, and made off with his electronic equipment. They were, he is convinced, acting under instruction. Suraju is glad to see justice served in the U.K. and is certain that Ekweremadu would never be jailed in Nigeria. But for him, it is a bittersweet victory. “Those millions of pounds worth of property could have built medical facilities in Nigeria,” he told me by phone. “The minimum expectation is that the system would scrutinize the background of politically exposed persons from developing countries in the Global South. The U.K. chooses to look the other way.” The National Crime Agency and the Metropolitan Police would not say whether law enforcement had been alerted to Ekweremadu’s alleged financial activity in the U.K.

As the verdict lit up Nigerian Twitter, @OluomoOfDerby, who runs an expat group in the U.K., told me: “I’m glad he got convicted. He knew he couldn’t save his daughter’s life in Nigeria. And then all his millions couldn’t save him. It shows to our leaders that if you don’t build better healthcare, it’ll affect you one day.”

After conviction in March 2023, the judge refused an appeal to extend Beatrice’s bail until sentencing in May. The prosecution highlighted numerous cases of forged documentation as well as the family’s access to substantial funds. In other words, there was significant incentive, and ability, to disappear. Furthermore, they could have disappeared the young donors who had been plucked from the streets of Lagos — one now missing a kidney, another widely identified in the Nigerian press and the target of hate speech. The donors were, as the prosecutor remarked, “spare parts, a disposable asset.”

Despite the yawning power disparity between the senator and the donor, the defense counsel portrayed the donor as an arch-villain, in ways that tapped into the U.K.’s febrile national conversation around immigration. When he made an offhand reference to his work in Lagos as “hustling,” this was used as evidence of a conniving nature. He was repeatedly referred to as a “businessman.” “He’s a conman,” one lawyer said. There is scant evidence that the donor understood what he was being asked or had much agency, but his account was inconsistent. He initially told police that he was 15, that he was living on the streets of Nigeria, that he had lost his passport and that his parents were dead. All these claims were subsequently disproved.

It was revealed during the trial that, after escaping Obeta’s apartment, the donor met a “good Samaritan” on the streets who gave him some money and put him on the phone with someone else, who advised him to embellish his account to police. Over two days, defense counsel grilled the donor, who hovered in the court’s view via video link from an undisclosed location. Seated next to a large Igbo interpreter, he seemed small.

“Because of the situation, I lied,” he explained meekly. He was fearful. When asked why Obeta helped him in the first place, the donor said he thought he was “from god.” While I sat in the court’s press gallery listening to the donor’s evidence, a few chairs down a man in a pinstriped suit, who appeared to know the senator, chuckled to a lady seated beside him. “He’s burying himself,” the man muttered gleefully. “He’ll need a coffin by the end of this, not a safe house.”

Juries are told not to research their cases, though it is hard to avoid Britain’s unpleasant immigration discourse. The Home Secretary Suella Braverman has referred to small boats carrying asylum seekers as “an invasion” by people who are “gaming the system” and lodging bogus claims of modern slavery. The defense sought to paint the donor as an opportunist, who agreed to give his kidney in order to get into the country, and then bailed. “He had no intention of parting with so much as a toenail,” one lawyer spat.

But one young Nigerian did part with his kidney — Obeta’s donor — for whom no medical aftercare was arranged. And though he has been identified as a victim of modern slavery, it is far from clear whether he is being safeguarded in any way. The Metropolitan Police say that they are now investigating other cases of organ trafficking in London and beyond.

The police welcomed the verdict, saying it “sends out a clear message across the world, the UK will not tolerate the international industry in illegal organ removal.” And yet the British government is currently rushing through legislation that experts say would jeopardize survivors’ ability to report trafficking and access protections, as well as stoking a culture of disbelief toward people with complicated stories of exploitation. We would probably never have known about any of this had the donor not walked into a police station last May. But that decision to alert the police has also come at great cost.

On the day of sentencing, prosecutor Davies read out a statement provided by the donor. When he was 10 years old, his father became sick and unable to work, prompting the firstborn son to take on agricultural laboring in the village. Years later, when Obeta offered him the chance of work in the U.K., the donor said he saw it as a chance to send money home. “My family are the most important people to me. I wanted to make them proud,” he said.

He said that he only found out who the “politician man” was when the senator was arrested. Upon the end of their jail sentences, the Ekweremadu family will be reunited, though the same may not be said for the donor, now marooned thousands of miles away from his loved ones. “I don’t want to think that I won’t see them again, but I want to be safe. In Nigeria these people can do anything; arrest me or kill me.” He said his father had been “visited” by unnamed people, who urged him to get his son to drop the case. And in the U.K., his new home, he says he has no friends or family, is wary of new people, but has resolved to start working, get an education and play football.

Davies also revealed that a police officer had recently been sent to explain in detail to the donor about the prospect of receiving victims’ compensation, visiting again to check that he had fully understood what he was entitled to and the implications. According to the officer, the donor spoke with moral conviction and announced adamantly that, irrespective of the financial benefit it would bring, he did not want anything from “the bad people.” They had an opportunity to be nice to him, he said, but they weren’t, and now he wants no further involvement with them. Accepting any money from them, he said, would be a curse.

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