Organ Trafficking: Trafficked for His Kidney from Lagos To Uk and Now Forced into hiding

When a man who'd been sleeping rough walked into a police station near Heathrow Airport, it would lead to the UK's first prosecution of human trafficking for organ removal. The BBC has been given unprecedented access to the Metropolitan Police team that investigated this historic case.

Jun 27, 2023 - 16:15
Jun 27, 2023 - 16:24
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Organ Trafficking: Trafficked for His Kidney from Lagos To Uk and Now Forced into hiding
Organ Trafficking: Trafficked for His Kidney from Lagos To Uk and Now Forced into hiding

Daniel was about to get the fright of his life.

He was sitting in a consulting room at the Royal Free hospital in London, speaking to doctors with his limited English.

The 21-year-old street trader from Lagos, Nigeria, had come to the UK days earlier for what he had been told was a "life-changing opportunity". He thought he was going to get a better job.

But now doctors were talking to him about the risks of the operation and the need for lifelong medical care.

It was at that moment, Daniel told investigators, that he realised there was no job opportunity and he had been brought to the UK to give a kidney to a stranger. 

He was going to literally be cut up like a piece of meat, take what they wanted out of him and then stitch him back up," according to Cristina Huddleston, from the anti modern slavery group Justice and Care.

Luckily for Daniel, the doctors had become suspicious that he didn't know what was going on and feared he was being coerced. So they halted the process. 

Daniel was not free of his traffickers though. Back in the flat he was staying in, two men came to examine him. It was then he overheard a conversation about sending him back to Nigeria to remove his kidney there. 

He fled, and after two nights sleeping rough, he walked into a police station near Heathrow, triggering an investigation that would lead to the UK's first prosecution for human trafficking for organ removal.

That was in May 2022, and Daniel - not his real name - now lives under heavy police protection. The BBC's File on 4 has learned that his ground-breaking case alerted UK authorities to other instances of organ trafficking. These include: 
The case of an Indian man in his 60s who has been arrested in the UK on suspicion of conspiring to exploit a person for organ removal. He was arrested earlier this month and released on bail

A case referred to police by the Human Tissue Authority, which must approve living organ transplants in the UK, after it refused to give the go-ahead

A "handful" of other referrals to police by the authority, of people it suspects have returned to the UK after having illegally paid for transplants abroad 

Meanwhile, the Met Police says it is still investigating "other outstanding suspects" from its original investigation.


Daniel's case reveals the tactics used by traffickers to lure people to the UK under false pretences. 

When Daniel was first offered the chance to work in the UK, while he was still in Nigeria, he was asked to go for a blood test. He thought it was for his UK visa, but it was really to check that his body was healthy enough to have his kidney removed. 

He was then put on a flight to London - but had no money and wasn't allowed to touch his passport. His every move was now being controlled

His traffickers then introduced him to the young Nigerian woman who was hoping to get his kidney. 

Sonia, who was 25 at the time, has a serious form of kidney disease. She needs a transplant and is on dialysis for five hours a day, three or four times a week.

A photograph of their meeting was taken as evidence of their relationship - he was being presented as her cousin, a willing donor for his family member. 

That's because while it is legal to offer an organ to someone else - y

Daniel was taken to several meetings with medical consultants at the private patients' unit at London's Royal Free Hospital. An interpreter was also paid to coach Daniel to say whatever the doctors needed to hear.

But the deception failed and Daniel went to the police.

His testimony led detectives to Sonia's father, one of Nigeria's most powerful politicians.

Ike Ekweremadu was a senior senator and a multi-millionaire, who was paying for his family to be schooled in the UK. 

At his trial earlier this year, Ekweremadu said he had been misled and never intended to exploit Daniel. In fact the jury heard the defendant had helped introduce laws that made organ donations for reward a criminal offence in Nigeria. 

In court, it emerged that Daniel was not the only person to have been brought to the UK to have their kidney taken. Another transplant - also illegal - went ahead in 2021. 

The man who received that organ for himself was in fact in the dock, along with the Ekweremadus - Sonia's parents. He was their middleman, Dr Obinna Obeta, who had orchestrated Daniel's exploitation. 

Dr Obeta knew what the process involved because his own transplant had also taken place at the Royal Free Hospital.

On sentencing, Mr Justice Johnson, referring to that first operation, put it bluntly: "The clinicians at the Royal Free, and the independent assessors at the Human Tissue Authority, were taken in by the lie."

The lie was that the transplant in 2021 was carried out on the understanding that the donor and recipient were cousins. In fact, it turned out they were not related. 

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