US seeks $144m proceeds from corrupt oil deal

20 July 2017

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) is seeking to recover $144m in assets that it alleges proceeded from a corrupt Nigerian oil deal.

The DoJ alleged that between 2011 and 2015 Nigerian businessmen Kolawole Akanni Aluko and Olajide Omokore conspired with others to pay bribes to Nigeria’s former minister for petroleum resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, boss of Nigeria’s state-owned oil company.

In return, lucrative oil contracts were steered to companies owned by Aluko and Omokore by Alison-Madueke, who gained a lavish lifestyle as a result.

It is alleged Aluko and Omokore purchased millions of dollars worth of real estate in and around London for Alison-Madueke and her family, as well as renovating and furnishing these homes with millions of dollars worth of furniture, artwork and luxury items.

Alison-Madueke used her influence to direct a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to award strategic alliance agreements (SSAs) to two shell companies created by Aluko and Omokore: Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria and Atlantic Energy Brass Development, according to the DoJ.

Under the SSAs these companies were required to finance the exploration and production operations of eight onshore oil and gas blocks in return for a portion of the oil and gas produced.

It is alleged the companies provided only a fraction of the contracted financing or even failed to provide it altogether in some instances.

Despite this the companies were still allowed to extract and sell more than $1.5bn worth of Nigerian crude oil before setting up a series of shell companies and intermediaries to launder part of the proceeds through the US, according to the DoJ.

The DoJ claims that money from these illicitly awarded contracts was used to purchase assets in the US including a $50m condominium located in one of Manhattan’s most expensive buildings and the Galactica Star, an $80m yacht.

“The United States is not a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption,” said acting assistant attorney general Kenneth Blanco. “The complaint demonstrates the department’s commitment to working with our law enforcement partners around the globe to trace and recover the proceeds of corruption, no matter the source.

“Corrupt foreign officials and business executives should make no mistake: 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.”

The case was brought under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, which is led by a team of dedicated prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section to seize the proceeds of foreign official corruption.

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