Prosecutors in the United States have moved to seize a 200-foot yacht and a condominium one block from Central Park in Manhattan, which were allegedly a part of a bribery scheme involving Nigeria’s former petroleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The assets, according to Financial Times, are worth $144m (about N50 billion) and were acquired by two Nigerian oil men, Kolawole Aluko and Olajide Omokore.
Aluko and Omokore, are alleged to have conspired with Alison-Madueke during her tenure as minister for petroleum resources during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration – 2011 to 2015.
Both oil businessmen created two shell companies in the British Virgin Islands — Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria and Atlantic Energy Brass Development — to handle their oil contracts, companies which were said to be unqualified.
Aluko and Omokore, nonetheless, lobbied with the then minister to win oil production contracts worth $1.5bn, according to a civil forfeiture complaint.
In appreciation, they allegedly went on to acquire multi-million dollar properties in London to cater to Alison-Madueke’s “lavish” lifestyle, while acquiring for themselves, a $82m vessel Galactica Star – regarded as the “world’s largest fast displacement yacht” – and the $87m condominium units in Manhattan.
A real estate in Southern California located just three miles from the Pacific Ocean was also listed as a part of the assets acquired by the oil businessmen.
Alison-Madueke was said to have admonished Aluko and Omokore for the lavish spending, saying, according to prosecutors, to Aluko over a recorded conversation that “if you want to hire a yacht, you lease it for two weeks or whatever. You don’t go and sink funds into it at this time when Nigerian oil and gas sector is under all kinds of watch.”
Some of the other luxurious acquisitions made by the Aluko and Omokore are:
1. a Buckinghamshire home known as “The Falls” for £3.25m, acquired in January 2011.
2. two properties near London’s Regent Parks – a £1.7m home at 39 Chester Close and 58 Harley House on the Marylebone Road for £2.8m – acquired by Aluko in March 2011. The first property was allegedly intended for the use of Ms Alison-Madueke’s mother and her son.
3. a £3.7m flat at 83-86 Prince Albert Road for the oil minister.
4. in May 2012, Mr Aluko allegedly wired $461,500 from a Swiss bank account to one furniture store and spent an additional $262,091 at a second on Alison-Madueke’s behalf.
Acting assistant attorney-general Kenneth Blanco said during the ruling on Friday that “the United States is not a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption.
“If illicit funds are within the reach of the United States, we will seek to forfeit them and to return them to the victims from whom they were stolen.”
Aluko’s last known address was in Porza-Lugano, Switzerland, while Mr Omokore is described as a resident of Lagos.
Alison-Madueke is currently facing charges of money laundering.