Hospital secretary helped in failed bid by Nigerian politician to harvest kidney for daughter, court hears
An interpreter became embroiled in a failed bid to persuade doctors to approve an illegal kidney transplant for the daughter of a wealthy Nigerian politician, a court has heard.
Evelyn “Ebere” Agbasonu allegedly asked for £1,500 to help secure Sonia Ekweremadu’s £80,000 private kidney transplant at the Royal Free Hospital in February 2022.
The prosecution claims the procedure was not legal as the donor was a street trader from Lagos who had generous motive or family connection with the 25-year-old recipient.
The Old Bailey has been told it was a “transactional” deal, with the 21-year-old man to be paid up to £7,000 for the harvesting of his body part and the promise of opportunities in the UK.
Ms Ekweremadu is on trial alongside her father Ike, 60, then-deputy president of the Nigerian Senate, her mother Beatrice, 56, and medical “middleman” Dr Obinna Obeta.
Ms Agbasonu was a member of staff at the hospital in Hampstead where she worked as a medical secretary.
Jurors heard she had stepped in to interpret Igbo during an initial meeting on 24 February between Dr Peter Dupont and the donor from Nigeria.
The consultant had concluded the young man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was not an appropriate candidate and appeared relieved the transplant would not go ahead.
Prosecutor Hugh Davies KC said it was “somewhat extraordinary” that, according to messages from others, Ms Agbasonu appeared to agree to manipulate a second meeting to help the Ekweremadu family.
Mr Ekweremadu’s medically trained brother Diwe allegedly sent Sonia Ekweremadu advice from the interpreter to show a clear family connection with the donor.
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: “OK, that’s fine.”
Diwe then allegedly laid out the financial agreement to 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 they just position themselves to exploit people.”
He allegedly continued: “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.”
Mr Davies suggested the messages demonstrated the opposite of an altruistic organ donation.
On 11 March. the donor attended a meeting with a surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital and the interpreter, the court heard.
Afterwards, Diwe allegedly messaged Ms Ekweremadu’s father: “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. Ebere and Obinna.”
Mr Davies told jurors that the surgeon agreed with Dr Dupont that the donor was unsuitable and Ms Ekweremadu was informed of the decision on 29 March.
Jurors heard that Dr Obeta had secured a kidney transplant at the Royal Free Hospital in 2021 with a donor also purporting to be his cousin.
Mr Davies told jurors an affidavit was the only evidence the two men were related.
Jurors heard that Dr Obeta had trained at medical school with Diwe Ekweremadu, who remains in Nigeria and is not on trial.
It is claimed that after the transplant in London fell through, the conspirators took steps to arrange a transplant with a different donor in Turkey.
On 5 May last year, the original donor presented himself at Staines police station in south-west London, saying he had been trafficked from Nigeria to provide a kidney and had been walking for three days.
In June last year, the Ekweremadus were arrested after Ike and Beatrice arrived at Heathrow Airport from Turkey.
In a statement, Beatrice said a donor had been found by a “third party”.
Ike, Beatrice and Sonia Ekweremadu, who have an address in Willesden Green, north-west London, and Dr Obeta, 50, from Southwark, south London, deny conspiring to arrange or facilitate the travel of the young man with a view to exploitation between 1 August 2021 and 5 May 2022.
The trial continues.