United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) was urged to investigate the activities of a former Nigeria Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu but it was ignored.
This was before Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, trafficked a man to London in an attempt to harvest his kidney.
Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, and 25-year-old daughter Sonia stood trial after they were accused of a conspiracy to bring a 21-year-old man to Britain from Lagos to harvest his organ.
Sonia is sick and in need of kidney replacement.
Alongside the couple, medical “middleman” Dr Obinna Obeta, 50, was also found guilty.
Last Friday, Ekweremadu was jailed for nine years and eight months, his wife Beatrice was sentenced to four years and six months imprisonment while Obeta received a 10-year prison term.
The Ekweremadus’ daughter Sonia, who has a kidney condition, was cleared of the same charge.
The Guardian reports that a former US intelligence analyst, Matthew Page, had warned the UK about Ekweremadu.
It noted that the plot could have been foiled if UK authorities had acted on his warnings about Ekweremadu and a dossier of material about his activities in Britain.
Page, a Nigeria expert at the US state department’s bureau of intelligence and research from 2012 to 2016 and now an associate fellow at the Chatham House thinktank, said, “Clearly the UK authorities had ample opportunity to scrutinise Ekweremadu’s UK activities before things reached the point of people-trafficking or organ harvesting.”
In research partly funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, Page examined how Nigerian politicians including Ekweremadu used unexplained wealth to buy properties worth millions of pounds in the UK and fund expensive private education for their children.
He found that in 12 years, Ekweremadu would have made about £339,000 as a political office holder, including his stint as deputy Senate president. But in that period, he bought three properties – two in London and one in Cambridge – worth £4.2 million.
Meanwhile, the court heard that Ekweremadu had an international property portfolio worth more than £6 million.
All Ekweremadu’s four children attended private schools in England and went on to further education at English universities, he noted.
In a 2021 paper, Page said: “Perhaps the most compelling red flag relating to west African PEPs’ [prominent politically exposed persons] payments to UK educational institutions is how greatly the payments exceed their official salaries.”
The paper said that in 2020 the average salary for a senior West African politician was £16,000, while UK private school fees were more than £35,000 a year. Page wrote: “It suggests that the tuition fee payments they [PEPs] make to UK institutions may include proceeds of crime and thus constitute an illicit cashflow.”
Page’s report noted that NCA itself had warned private schools: “If the salary of a parent is so low that they could not possibly afford the fees legitimately, this should set alarm bells ringing.”
His published research on the issues has been anonymised but in 2017 he named three key individuals involved to the NCA, senior UK diplomats in Nigeria, and Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The first person on the list was Ekweremadu.
Page supplied the NCA with a dossier of information about how Ekweremadu had used unexplained wealth to fund his UK activities. The dossier has been seen by the Guardian. Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, is also reported to have asked the UK’s Serious Fraud Office to investigate Ekweremadu.
Despite the warnings and financial red flags raised in the dossier, Ekweremadu’s organ trafficking plot went undetected until a young street trader from Lagos whom he had brought over fled to Staines police station in Surrey in May 2022 in fear for his life.
The UK court heard how Ekweremadu bribed a hospital administrator and used forged documents in a failed attempt to convince the Royal free hospital in London to transplant the man’s kidney to his sick daughter, Sonia.
Page said: “The UK authorities clearly should have had this individual on their radar and should not have been issuing him and his family with visas, given suspicions of grand corruption, especially after 2017 when I provided clear evidence of unexplained wealth, UK financial assets and transactions that greatly exceeded his known earnings.
“When the His Majesty’s government turns a blind eye to corruption/unexplained wealth, it has unpredictable knock-on effects, including – in this case – human suffering and heinous crime in the form of organ trafficking.”
According to Page, Ekweremadu sold three of his UK properties in the autumn 2021 before standing to be governor of Enugu state. Records show they were sold for a combined total of £5.09m, £874,000 more than Ekweremadu paid for them. Page said he was concerned that Ekweremadu was able to repatriate this gain to Nigeria.
A source at the NCA confirmed it had received Page’s information about Ekweremadu but rejected his claim that it was ignored. He said the information was handled seriously, appropriately and shared with law enforcement agencies in Nigeria.
Ekweremadu’s lawyer pointed out that the Nigerian high court had rejected an investigation into Ekweremadu’s wealth by the country’s anti-fraud agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. She said: “My client denies any allegation of corruption, as he had done throughout the entire EFCC investigation.”