*Diezani warned against lavish spending’
*Suit seeks to recover N52.243bn in assets
By Emmanuel Okogba and Nwafor Sunday, with agency report
Court documents filed by the US Department of Justice in Houston have revealed that Nigeria’s former oil minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, allegedly tried to warn Kola Aluko and Jide Omokore, her business partners, against lavish spending, including splashing millions of dollars on a yacht.
“If you want to hire a yacht, you lease it for two weeks or whatever. You don’t go and sink funds into it at this time when Nigerian oil and gas sector is under all kinds of watch,” she allegedly told Aluko in a recorded conversation.
But her warning fell on deaf ears as Aluko allegedly went on to buy Galactica Star, a luxury yacht, for $80million (about N29,024,000,000 – twenty nine billion, and twenty four million naira – at current exchange rate of N362.8 to a dollar), according to a NAN report.
The yacht, a stupendous luxury on water, was once rented by Jay Z and his wife, Beyonce, for close to a million dollars during a holiday last year. It also once hosted Beyonce’s 32nd birthday in 2013. The prosecutors suggest that most of the proceeds were from the oil swap deal introduced during the tenure of Diezani.
The oil swap contracts were a controversial barter arrangement which saw Nigeria use middlemen to sell crude oil in exchange for refined products. With local refineries under-performing, oil swap deals were used to shore up local demand for petroleum products.
Between 2010 and 2014, Nigeria was estimated to have channeled over 352 million barrels of oil worth a total of $35 billion into oil swap deals.
But with the contracts mostly opaque, Nigeria reportedly lost more than $900 million in crude oil swap deals between 2009 and 2012.
The deals came under severe scrutiny with former Central Bank Governor, now Emir Muhammadu Sanusi, describing them “not properly structured, monitored and audited.”
President Buhari cancelled the oil swap arrangement in November 2015, seven months after taking office.
The civil lawsuit, brought by DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, is seeking to recover $144 million (about N52,243,200,000 – fifty two billion, two hundred and forty three million, two hundred thousand naira) in assets, including a $50 million luxury condo apartment in New York and the $80 million yacht.
Prosecutors allege that both assets were proceeds from bribes paid by two Nigerian businessmen for lucrative Nigerian oil contracts. The lawsuit seeks the forfeiture of both assets.
They alleged that the businessmen, Kolawole Aluko and Olajide Omokore, laundered money through the US by purchasing lavish assets.
The $50 million New York condo is at One57, located opposite Carnegie Hall in midtown Manhattan. The building currently holds the record for the most-expensive residential sale in New York following a $100.5 million apartment purchase in 2014.
Aluko’s $50 million condo is the 8th most expensive in the building, but following a loan default, his mortgage lenders are set to auction the apartment on July 19.
Aluko’s yacht and penthouse are not the only items under scrutiny by the DOJ.
Under the SAAs, the Atlantic Companies were required to finance the exploration and production operations of eight on-shore oil and gas blocks. In return for financing these operations, the companies expected to receive a portion of the oil and gas produced.
However, according to the complaint, the Atlantic Companies provided only a fraction of the agreed upon financing or, in some instances, failed entirely to provide it.
The companies also failed to meet other obligations under the SAAs, including the payment of $120 million entry fee.
Nevertheless, according to the allegations, the companies were permitted to lift and sell more than $1.5 billion worth of Nigerian crude oil.
The government alleges that the Atlantic Companies then used a series of shell companies and intermediaries to launder a portion of the total proceeds of these arrangements into and through the U.S.
The Galactica Star
The Galactica Star is tagged Super Yatch and is 65metres long. It has its own ‘beach club’, private helipad, high-end galley and outdoor jacuzzi over three decks. Its Aerodynamic design and aluminium hull means it handles well and can reach top speed of up to 28 knots (32mph).
As Mail Online reported, the American superstars must be be on first name terms with the Nigerian multi-millionaire owner to have the run of it.
It’s the largest yacht ever made by Dutch ship-building company, Heesen, and despite the size, it glides through the water with great grace – and speed.
The Galactica’s sumptuous master cabin, the upper-deck VIP cabin, and four guest suites can comfortably house 12 passengers who are serviced by 13 crew.
The ‘full-beam’ master suite comes with a private balcony, a walk-in wardrobe and spectacular views of the ocean.
And when guests want to sunbathe under the scorching Mediterranean sun, they can choose from an array of areas on the yacht’s 267-square-metres of space on three upper decks.
They can sunbathe on the side platform which is ‘perfect for two sunbeds and a drinks table’ or jump into the sea from the Galactica’s ‘beach club’, a 22-square-metre landing at the yacht’s back where guests can jump into the sea for a swim.