by Abdulaziz Abdulaziz,
Prosecutors in the United States have provided details of how Nigeria’s former minister of petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and her two businessmen-allies, Jide Omokore and Kola Aluko, lavished billions of naira on property and luxury items in the U.S. and United Kingdom.
The trio have, in the last two years, been at the centre of many investigations and court actions around management of Nigeria’s oil industry.
Last year, the Nigerian government filed for a court order for world-wide seizure of multi-billion naira asset linked to the two men, described as close allies of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
In a civil forfeiture notice filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, DoJ, on Friday, prosecutors narrated how the two businessmen allegedly conspired to bribe the former minister purchasing property worth millions of dollars in London for Mrs. Alison-Madueke and her family.
Prosecutors described the two men as financiers of the former minister’s lavish lifestyle’.
The two are accused of buying a total of four residential properties in and around London worth 11.45 million, and furnished them with furniture, artwork and other luxury items, the Financial Times reports.
In one day in May 2012, Mr. Aluko was said to have wired $461,500 and $262,091 to two furniture stores in Houston from a Swiss bank account, on behalf of Mrs. Alison-Madueke, the civic complaint claimed.
The bribe, according to prosecutors, was in exchange of $1.5 billion worth of oil deal awarded to two shell companies linked to the two men.
Prosecutors described the two companies as “unqualified” for the deal but were nonetheless given the contracts for sale of crude oil worth $1.5 billion.
The businessmen then allegedly plotted more shell companies to launder the proceeds through the United States.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported on how Mr. Omokore was quizzed by operatives of EFCC over allegations of fraud and diversion through his company, Atlantic Energy. Mr. Omokere was later charged to the court alongside his alleged accomplices.
COST OF BRIBERY
U.S. prosecutors are now moved to seize $144 million in asset linked the two men, comprising a 200-foot yacht and a Manhattan property one block from Central Park, describing them as fruits of an international bribery scheme.
Among the asset is Mr Aluko’s vessel, Galactica Star, described as “world’s largest fast displacement yacht”, along with condominium units in Manhattan and real estate in Southern California.
“The United States is not a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption,” Financial Times quoted acting assistant attorney-general Kenneth Blanco as saying. “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.”