The US Department of Justice has recently released a statement on the final resolution of two civil cases involving the forfeiture of luxury assets that were laundered in and through Nigeria. The cases are linked to former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and her associates Kola Aluko and Jide Omokore, the chairman of Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Limited.
The US Department of Justice revealed that the forfeited assets were the “proceeds of foreign corruption offences.” The recovered assets, which included “roughly $53.1 million in cash, plus a promissory note with a principal value of $16 million,” were part of “proceeds of illicitly awarded contracts” involving the trio.
According to court documents, Aluko and Omokore conspired with others from 2011 to 2015 to pay bribes to Nigeria’s former minister for petroleum resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke. In return, Alison-Madueke used her influence to steer lucrative oil contracts to companies owned by Aluko and Omokore. The proceeds of those illicitly awarded contracts totalling more than $100 million were then laundered in and through the United States and used to purchase various assets through shell companies, including luxury real estate in California and New York as well as the Galactica Star, a 65-meter superyacht. The real estate was also used as collateral for loans to Aluko and shell companies he controlled.
Diezani was the minister of petroleum resources from 2010 to 2015 during the administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan. She left the country prior to the handover of government from Jonathan to President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
Diezani has been alleged to have stolen $2.5 billion from the Nigerian government while she was a minister, although she denies the allegations. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has since commenced a process to extradite her. The federal government had already gained forfeiture of Diezani’s properties located in Banana Island Foreshore Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos, including 18 flats and six penthouses.
Over the past few years, the trio of Diezani, Aluko, and Omokore have been facing trial over alleged fraud in the procurement of oil contracts and money laundering in Nigeria and the US. In 2017, the US government filed a suit to recover $144 million in assets that were purportedly acquired with proceeds from a shady scheme in Nigeria’s oil industry. Aluko and Omokore were said to have paid bribes between 2011 and 2015 to Diezani in exchange for contracts. Diezani reportedly used her position to secure contracts for Aluko and Omokri’s shell companies through a subsidiary of the defunct Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) — now the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited.
The final resolution of the forfeiture cases is a significant development in the fight against corruption in Nigeria and the recovery of stolen assets. It serves as a warning to those who engage in corrupt practices that their ill-gotten gains will not be safe anywhere in the world, and they will eventually be brought to justice. It is crucial to ensure that the recovered assets are used for the benefit of Nigerians, and measures are put in place to prevent such corruption from happening again in the future.