The United States is seeking the forfeiture and recovery of about $144 million of Nigerian assets allegedly laundered in and through its territory.
The US Justice Department has filed a complaint alleging that Nigerian businessmen, Kolawole Akanni Aluko and Olajide Omokore, conspired with others to pay bribes to former Minister for Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke in order to induce her award lucrative oil contracts to companies owned by Aluko and Omokore.
According to the complainants, the proceeds of the unlawfully awarded contracts were then laundered in and through the United States and used to acquire various assets, which are now subject to seizure and forfeiture. They include a $50 million condominium located in one of Manhattan’s most expensive buildings – 157 W. 57th Street – and the Galactica Star, an $80 million yacht.
“The United States is not a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco said.
The U.S. government alleges that Aluko, Omokore purchased real estate worth millions of dollars, in and around London, for Alison-Madueke and her family members. Then renovated and furnished these homes with millions of dollars in furniture, artwork and other luxury items purchased at two Houston-area furniture stores at the instance of Alison-Madueke’s.
In rewarding them, Alison-Madueke allegedly used her influence to direct a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to steer Strategic Alliance Agreements (SAAs) to two shell companies created by Aluko and Omokore -Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Ltd. and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd. (the Atlantic Companies).
Under the SAAs, the Atlantic Companies were required to finance the exploration and production operations of eight on-shore oil and gas blocks. For these, the companies kept back a portion of the oil and gas produced.
But the complaint showed that the Atlantic Companies provided only an inconsequential portion of the needed financing, or in some cases, failed entirely to provide it. It is further alleged that they also failed to meet other obligations under the SAAs, for example the payment of $120 million entry fee.
Nevertheless, they were allowed to lift and sell more than $1.5 billion worth of Nigerian crude oil.