Organ harvesting: Trafficked for his kidney 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.

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.

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 – you cannot do it for financial reward.



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