An interpreter tried to persuade doctors at a hospital to approve an illegal kidney transplant for the daughter of a wealthy Nigerian politician, who it is claimed plotted to transport a street trader to the UK to harvest the organ, a court has heard.
Evelyn ‘Ebere’ Agbasonu allegedly asked for payment of £1,500 to help secure the £80,000 private kidney transplant for the alleged recipient Sonia Ekweremadu, 25, at the Royal Free Hospital in north London in February 2022.
Jurors at the Old Bailey heard of Ms Agbasonu’s role during the trial of Ike Ekweremadu, 60, who is alleged to have conspired with family members and others to exploit the 21-year-old street trader from Lagos in harvesting his kidney.
The then-deputy president of the Nigerian is on trial alongside his wife Beatrice Ekweremadu, EvdEN EVe naKLiyAT 56, their daughter Sonia and medical ‘middleman’ Dr Obinna Obeta.
They all deny conspiracy to arrange the travel of another person with a view to exploitation.
Sonia had a ‘significant and deteriorating’ kidney condition which could be managed through dialysis but cured with a transplant.
Ike Ekweremadu, 60, is on trial alongside his wife Beatrice Ekweremadu, 56, their daughter Sonia, 25.
All three deny conspiracy to arrange the travel of another person with a view to exploitation
The prosecution claims the procedure was not legal as the potential organ donor was a street trader from Lagos who had no altruistic motive or family connection with the recipient.
The Old Bailey has been told it was a ‘transactional’ deal, with the man to be paid up to 3.5m Naira, the equivalent of £7,000,for the harvesting of his body part and the promise of opportunities in the UK.
He was tested in Nigeria and found to be a match for Sonia before being brought to the UK.
The jury heard that Ms Agbasonu, who worked as a medical secretary at the clinic and spoke Igbo, stepped in to interpret during an initial meeting on February 24 between Dr Peter Dupont and the donor from Nigeria.
The consultant had concluded the man, who cannot be named for EVdeN EVe naKliyAT legal reasons, was not an appropriate candidate and appeared relived that the transplant would not take place.
However, according to messages from others, Ms Agbasonu appeared to agree to manipulate a second meeting to the advantage of the Ekweremadu family.
Mr Ekweremadu’s brother Diwe, who had medical training, allegedly sent Sonia Ekweremadu advice from the interpreter to show a clear family connection with the donor.
Ike, a former barrister, is a member of the centre-right Peoples Democratic Party and was the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate for three consecutive terms
Beatrice (pictured) said the donor had been found via a third party. She stated that she was ‘devastated’ when further tests after his arrival in the UK found he was not a match
He allegedly said: ‘Ebere said it would be easier to establish that his mum and your mum are sisters.
If we stretch it to the grandmum and grandmum the relationship will be too distant.’
Ms Ekweremadu allegedly replied with: ‘Ok, that’s fine.’
Diwe then allegedly laid out a financial agreement with her father, saying: ‘I’ve met the Igbo interpreter.
She agreed to work with us. She will be involved in coaching the boy, and during his consultation and interviews she will be providing the relevant interpretation.
‘She insisted that I give her £1,500. I think the just position themselves to exploit people.’
It is claimed the potential donor was told to pretend to be Sonia’s cousin.
Diwe is also alleged to have said: ‘We had a meeting today with her so I’ve introduced her to Chinoso (Sonia) and (the donor).
She advised that (the donor) comes to the hospital on Tuesday and Thursday while Chinoso (Sonia) is having her dialysis.
‘Psychologically everyone in the team will have to accept that he’s really committed to his cousin’s health and it usually makes it easier to accept the person for the procedure.’
Prosecutor Hugh Davies KC suggested to the court the messages demonstrated the opposite of an altruistic organ donation.
Ike has denied all the allegations and said he had not arranged the travel of anyone to the UK
Beatrice Ekweremadu (fron) and Sonia Ekweremadu (behind) at the Old Bailey
The court heard that the potential donor and interpreter attended a meeting with a surgeon at the hospital on March 11.
After the meeting, Diwe allegedly messaged Ms Ekweremadu’s father, saying: ‘I have spoken with (the interpreter).
She said the boy did better today but he’s still showing so much timidity.
‘She covered up for him and added the words as much as possible. The surgeon will discuss with Dr Dupont and they will communicate us. They will continue to work on the boy’s confidence.
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But, the surgeon agreed with the initial assessment made by Dr Dupont that the donor was unsuitable. Ms Ekweremadu was informed of the decision on March 29.
Mr Davies told the court the interpreter was also involved in Dr Obeta’s own transplant.
The jury heard that Dr Obeta, also on trial with the family, had secured a kidney transplant at the Royal Free Hospital in 2021, with a donor purporting to be his cousin.
Mr Davies told jurors an affidavit was the only evidence of a relation between the two men.
‘Whatever the truth of any of that, the basis of his transplant process provided a clear model for what Sonia needed in her moment of crisis,’ he told the court.
Jurors heard that Dr Obeta had trained at medical school with Diwe, who remains in Nigeria and is not on trial.
Medical ‘middleman’ Dr Obinna Obeta (pictured) is also on trial with the family at the Old Bailey
Ike Ekweremadu (left) and EVdEn eve nAKLiYaT wife Beatrice Ekweremadu (right) are on trial at the Old Bailey