A man and a woman have been charged with conspiracy over a plan to bring the child to the U.K. in order to harvest their organs, London’s Metropolitan Police announced Thursday. No details were immediately available on the age and gender of the child.
Nigerian nationals Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, 55, and Ike Ekweremadu, 60, will stand trial for conspiracy to arrange or facilitate travel of another person “with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting,” police said in a statement. Both defendants are set to appear in court in west London on Thursday.
The horrific allegations come after an investigation by the Specialist Crime team at Scotland Yard, which deals with serious offenses in the English capital. Cops launched their inquiry last month, leading to the duo’s arrest after police were alerted to possible crimes being committed under modern slavery legislation.
The child, who has not been identified, has been “safeguarded,” the Met said, adding that the force was “working closely with partners on continued support.” British court rules mean the police are unable to divulge any further details while criminal proceedings are underway.
Forced organ harvesting—in which organs are surgically removed from a victim against their will—has been addressed by recent legislation in the U.K. A law passed in April partly aims to disrupt the black market organ trade by making it illegal for Brits to travel overseas to purchase an organ, a practice known as “organ tourism.” Although the sale and trafficking of organs in the U.K. was already outlawed, the new rules came amid worrying reports of a booming organ trade around the world in recent years.
In London’s Chinatown, a years-long protest has been staged against alleged forced organ harvesting from political prisoners in China. The practice of harvesting organs from executed prisoners is legal in China, but an article published in the American Journal of Transplantation in April claimed to have found 71 cases in which prisoners were operated on while they were still alive.
And sadly, because human organs are a valuable commodity, some people even consider voluntarily selling their own organs when conditions are desperate enough. Just this week, a hospital in Kenya had to issue a public declaration telling people to stop asking staff how much they could get for their kidneys. And in Afghanistan—where a devastating combination of widespread famine and international sanctions have pushed millions of people to the edge of starvation—dreadful reports emerged in early 2022 that people were selling kidneys for as little as $1,500 to feed their families.