US prosecutors have concluded plans to confiscate $144m worth of assets, including a 200-foot yacht belonging to Diezani Allison-Madueke, former Minister of Petroleum resources and two other Nigerian “oil men”.
According to the US-based newspaper, Financial Times, the seized property are believed to be proceeds of an “international bribery scheme that involved (Allison-Madueke), the then-president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC”.
According the report, a forfeiture complaint has already been filed at the US justice department, alleging that between 2011 and 2015, the two men, “Kolawole Aluko and Olajide Omokore … conspired with others to bribe Alison-Madueke in order to win oil production contracts worth $1.5 billion”.
After the contracts had been awarded to Shell, represented by Aluko and Omokore, Alison-Madueke was allegedly rewarded with a “lavish lifestyle”.
“The two businessmen allegedly purchased millions of dollars worth of property in and near London for the oil minister and her family and then furnished the homes with furniture, artwork and other luxury items from Houston-area stores that she fancied,” the report read.
“In January 2011, the Nigerian businessmen and unidentified co-conspirators bought a Buckinghamshire home known as “The Falls” for £3.25m.
“Two months later, as Mr Aluko was meeting with Nigerian oil officials to discuss a contract, he arranged to buy 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.
“The first property, upgraded with an elevator and new stone flooring and countertops, was intended for the use of Ms Alison-Madueke’s mother and her son.
“The men that month also purchased a £3.7m flat at 83-86 Prince Albert Road for the oil minister.
“Ms Alison-Madueke appears to have favoured furniture stores in the Houston area, which she patronised on periodic visits to the US oil industry capital.
“On a single day in May 2012, Mr Aluko wired $461,500 from a Swiss bank account to one furniture store and spent an additional $262,091 at a second on the oil minister’s behalf.”
The justice department also targeted to confiscate Aluko’s luxury yatch “Galactica Star”, which its builder bills as the “world’s largest fast displacement yacht”, as well as “condominium units in Manhattan and real estate in Southern California located just three miles from the Pacific Ocean”.
Kenneth Blanco, Acting Assistant Attorney General, said of the investigations: “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.”
According to the report, Aluko, who was known as “a small-time (oil) trader”, was earning an average of $500,000 annually, but between 2011 and 2015, “he had purchased more than $87 million of US property and the $82 million yacht.”
In a recorded tape obtained by prosecutors, Alison-Madueke had chided Aluko not apparently for his lavish spending but for doing so when he knew all eyes were on them.
“If you want to hire a yacht, you lease it for two weeks or whatever,” she was quoted as saying in the tape. “You don’t go and sink funds into it at this time when Nigerian oil and gas sector is under all kinds of watch.”
The case was brought as part of the US department of Justice’s kleptocracy asset recovery initiative.
Prosecutors say Aluko’s last known address was in Porza-Lugano, Switzerland, while Omokore is described as a resident of Lagos.