Money-Laundering and Nigerian officials: Another ordinary day in office
As Nigerians sweat-out the dry season, and sleep less hours every night because the houses they call home are too hot, and electricity is acutely in short supply, one of their own, one Mr. Kolawole Akanni Aluko is hiding from the US authorities in his $80 million yacht. Mr. Aluko is on the lam because the Nigerian Government and US authorities want to seize the yacht and his $50 million apartment in One57 located on 157 West 57th Street, New York. While the amount involved is staggering, Nigerians are accustomed to such outrageous behavior by the mammals that govern their affairs, and loot their resources.
The federal lawsuit filed by the US authorities against Mr. Aluko and comrade Olajide Omokore, is a civil forfeiture action to recover assets worth over $144 million acquired through money-laundering. The lawsuit alleges that Alujo and Omokore moved millions of dollars through their shell companies into the US, and that the funds came by way of bribing the then Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Alison-Madueke Diezani, to divert to them contracts for which they had no ability to execute, and in many instances failed to perform what the contracts called for. For her efforts, Mrs. Diezani received millions of dollars in bribes. However, before Nigerian authorities could get hold of the $80 million apartment, it was auctioned off by the mortgage holder of the lien on the apartment for $39 million. If one is counting, count this as another needless dissipation of badly needed funds to minimize the ills that plague the average Nigerian.
Meanwhile, back in Abuja, and Lagos, the menacing heat takes its toll; and the remainder of Nigerians eek out a living from decrepit infrastructure, dysfunctional educational system, malnutrition, personal insecurity, and a debilitating paucity of electricity. To the lot of Nigerians, this new episode of bureaucratic corruption is no news; they have seen worse, and expect the worst from their policy makers. To expect differently would be laughable.
Below is further account of this development from a highly respected expert on African affairs.
An $80 Million Yacht, a $50 Million Apartment, and Nigeria’s Former Oil Minister.
By Ambassador John Campbell.
Laundering money by purchasing real estate in foreign countries is an old song. The wealthiest parts of London and New York are filled with expensive houses and apartments, respectively, that are apparently unoccupied by their foreign owners most of the time. Mayfair and Belgravia in London and midtown Manhattan are especially popular. In Manhattan, One57, located at 157 West 57th Street, is one of the most notorious of the supertalls, apartment houses more than one thousand feet high. It includes the most expensive apartment ever sold in New York, at a price of $100.5 million in 2014. New York law makes it easy for purchasers of expensive real estate to be anonymous, making properties in the city attractive to foreigners living in unstable countries who wish to protect or launder their assets.
Kolawole Akanni Aluko, a former executive director of Atlantic Energy, was the owner of a 6,240-square foot apartment on the 79th floor of One57 that he reportedly purchased for just over $50 million. The formal owner, apparently, was a shell company that he controlled. As collateral for a mortgage, Aluko used his $80 million yacht, which he reportedly rented to rapper Jay-Z and singer Beyoncé at a rate of $900,000 per week. Subsequently, he defaulted on a mortgage of $35.3 million to a Luxembourg bank. In foreclosure, the apartment was sold at auction in 2017 for $36 million, a decline of 29 percent in the purchase price.
Aluko and others are under investigation in Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and the United States for, among other things, bribing the Nigerian oil minister at the time, Diezani Alison-Madueke, for lucrative government contracts. Alison-Madueke is also under investigation. Aluko has reportedly disappeared on his yacht and is thought to be somewhere in the Caribbean. For its part, the U.S. Department of Justice has filed a civil complaint seeking the forfeiture and recovery of $144 million in assets related to the alleged bribery of Alison-Madueke by Aluko and others.
Oil and gas are the property of the Nigerian state. They are exploited through joint ventures and agreements between the state and oil companies. Oil production is normally about two million barrels per day. Yet more than half of Nigeria’s population lives in poverty. Popular resentment at corruption of the magnitude alleged with respect to Aluko was an important factor in the presidential victory of Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, and drives his anti-corruption campaign.