By Simeon OSAJIE
The Justice Department of the United States said it recovered roughly $53.1 million in cash – constituting the net liquidated value of the defendant’s assets – plus a promissory note with a principal value of $16 million from Nigeria Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and two of her business partners Kolawole Akanni Aluko and Olajide Omokore.
According to court papers, from 2011 to 2015, businessmen Aluko and Omokore conspired with others to pay bribes to Diezani who at the time oversaw the nation’s state-owned oil company.
In return, Diezani used her influence to steer lucrative oil contracts to companies owned by Aluko and Omokore.
According to the department, the proceeds of those illicitly awarded contracts totaling 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 super yacht.
The real estate was also used as collateral for loans to Aluko and shell companies he controlled. As part of the forfeiture process, those lien holders were paid.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, Assistant Director in Charge David Sundberg of the FBI Washington Field Office, and Chief Jim Lee of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.
The FBI’s International Corruption Squad in the Washington Field Office and the IRS-CI investigated the cases, with assistance from the FBI Los Angeles Field Office.
Trial Attorneys Michael W. Khoo and Joshua L. Sohn of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section prosecuted the cases. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas provided substantial assistance.
“These cases were brought under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. This initiative is led by a team of dedicated prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies, and often with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and, where appropriate, to use those recovered assets to benefit the people harmed by these acts of corruption and abuse of office,” the department’s statement partly read.
In 2015, the FBI formed International Corruption Squads across the country to address national and international implications of foreign corruption.
Individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through the United States are advised to contact federal law enforcement at tips.fbi.gov/ or send an email to [email protected].