UK - THE FIRST PROSECUTION FOR ALLEGED COMMERCIAL ORGAN DONATION HIGHLIGHTS THE UGLY SIDE OF FINANCIAL CRIME [ML]
A hospital secretary received £1,500 to manipulate answers from a young man being paid to donate his kidney to the daughter of a powerful politician, the Old Bailey was told.
Evelyn Agbasonu was a long-serving employee at a private clinic of the Royal Free Hospital in north London which treats many foreign patients.
- She offered to interpret for a potential donor, 21 after a surgeon said he was not sure the impoverished young Nigerian was acting altruistically as required by law.
- The secretary had also acted as an interpreter for another young Nigerian donor who, the previous year provided a kidney for a Dr. Obeta.
ALL the accused deny conspiracy to exploit the intended donor.
- Sonia Ekweremadu, 25, the intended recipient;
- Her father Ike, 60, a senator in the Nigerian parliament; and
- Her mother, Beatrice Nwanneka, 56,
- Dr Obina Obeta, 50, from Southwark, south London, also denies the charge.
The case is the first prosecution for alleged commercial organ donation under the Modern Slavery Act.
It is unlawful to pay an organ donor.
- Sonia’s potential donor was allegedly going to be paid as little as £2,400 plus a visa to travel to the UK and the opportunity to work.
Peter Dupont, the surgeon, asked Agbasonu to act as an independent interpreter in the Igbo language during the interview with the donor in February last year.
Hugh Davies KC, for the prosecution, said messages show
- “Somewhat extraordinarily” the secretary “appears to have agreed to accept, in obvious breach of their professional role, £1,500 after this meeting in order to manipulate a second meeting to the advantage of the family”.
Dupont decided the donor
- Was unsuitable as he was too young,
- Did not understand the long-term risks to his own health and
- His purported relationship as Sonia’s cousin was “far too tenuous for this to be likely to be a truly altruistic act”.
The donor, who earned a few pounds a day working on a street market in Lagos, then received “coaching” about the background of Sonia’s influential family and the “lies” he was to tell about his own family.
The allegedly corrupt secretary advised that the potential donor visit the hospital while Sonia was having dialysis.
Sonia’s uncle sent a message reading:
- “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.”
Agbasonu acted as the potential donor’s interpreter with another surgeon, Phillip Masson. She is said to have delayed the interview so false documents could be obtained.
Following the interview the interpreter allegedly complained the potential donor “showed too much timidity” but “she covered up for him and added the words as much as possible”.
Despite her efforts Masson agreed with Dupont that the donor was unsuitable.
- The secretary had also acted as an interpreter for another young Nigerian donor who the previous year provided a kidney for Obeta.
- Obeta also allegedly falsely claimed the donor was a cousin.
- After the original potential donor was rejected, the family tried to find others.
- When pictures of two men were sent to Sonia she responded: “The dark [skin] one looks better, the light one looks like he might run away.”
- “These were not altruistic donors: they were being drawn from the pool of economically vulnerable young men in Nigeria in need of reward. That is human exploitation.”
The Ekweremadu family was allegedly assisted by Christopher Agbo,
- An NHS consultant nephrologist based at the Hinchingbrooke hospital in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. Agbo, 50, runs a company called Vintage Health Group which arranges “health tourism” treatment at private British hospitals for foreign patients.
Sonia, who graduated with a degree in media from Coventry University, has a rare genetic kidney condition called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. She lives with her parents in Willesden, north London.
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