Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife Beatrice have denied all charges of human trafficking and organ harvesting filed against them before a UK magistrate’s court.
The couple said they did not procure a minor in order to abduct and harvest his organ, contradicting the charges filed by the Metropolitan Police at Uxbridge Magistrate’s Court, London, on Thursday afternoon.
The charges were “nothing short of preposterous,” the Ekweremadus said through their lawyer Gavin Irwin, who added that the couple never “arranged transport for anyone with intention to exploit them.”
Despite strongly denying the allegations, the Ekweremadus were remanded in custody until commencement of trial on July 7.
Mr Ekweremadu has been a member of the Nigerian Senate since 2003. He was the Deputy Senate President between 2015 and 2019. He sought but failed to clinch the PDP ticket for governorship race in his home Enugu State.
Mr Ekweremadu’s records “taken together go way beyond him being a person of good character…rather that he has led a blameless life as a public servant,” his lawyers added.
Antonia Gray, a lawyer to 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 lawyer added.
A letter which Mr Ekweremadu wrote to the UK High Commission seeking to procure a visa for someone named David Ukpo.
The December 28, 2021, letter signed personally by Mr Ekweremadu specifically said he was supporting Mr Ukpo’s visa application because he wanted him to undergo medical examinations in the UK with the purpose of donating a kidney to his daughter Sonia Ekweremadu.
Meanwhile, the couple may face life imprisonment if found guilty and convicted to maximum sentence under the United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA 2015).
London Met Police said investigation was launched on the duo after detectives were alerted to potential offences under modern slavery legislation in May 2022.
MSA 2015 frowns at human trafficking, under which organ harvesting falls, and is punishable with maximum sentence of life imprisonment upon conviction.
The act partly reads, “Under S 2, an individual commits an offence if they arrange or facilitate the travel of another with a view to that person being exploited. It is irrelevant whether that person consents to the travel, or whether they are a child or an adult.
“Under S 3 of MSA 2015, exploitation includes: slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour; sexual exploitation (which involves the commission of an offence under s 1(1)(a) of the Protection of Children’s Act 1978 (indecent photographs of children), or Pt 1 of SOA 2003 (eg, rape or sexual assault); removal of organs where a person is encouraged required or expected to do anything which involves the commission of an offence under ss 32 or 33 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 (prohibition of commercial dealings in organs and restrictions on use of live donors); securing services etc by force, threats or deception; securing services etc from children and vulnerable persons (eg, physically or mentally ill or disabled).”
It further stated that anyone found guilty of “human trafficking is liable on summary conviction to 12 months’ imprisonment and/or unlimited fine,” adding that “on conviction on indictment, the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.”