The U.S. Justice Department on Friday filed a lawsuit seeking to recover assets that include a $50 million Manhattan apartment and an $80 million yacht that it said were bought using money generated from a scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes to a former Nigerian oil minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, by businessmen, Kola Aluko and Jide Omokore.
The lawsuit, brought as part of the Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, seeks the forfeiture of the proceeds of foreign corruption.
Aluko and Omokore, who are also facing fraud charges by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria were said to have fraudulently enriched themselves from illicit favours authorized by Alison-Madueke during her time as oil minister.
The civil lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Houston, alleges that the two Nigerian businessmen conspired with others to pay bribes to the minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who oversaw Nigeria’s state-owned oil company, NNPC.
The lawsuit further stated that Alison-Madueke directed lucrative contracts to companies owned by Aluko and Omokore leading to more than $1.5 billion in revenues through the sale of crude oil, despite being unqualified and in some instances failing entirely to perform services under the contracts.
The Justice Department said that Aluko and Omokore eventually laundered their illicit revenues through the United States and used the money to buy assets totaling $144m including the Manhattan condominium and the $80m yacht, the Galactica Star.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco said in a statement that, “The United States is not a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption,” noting that the case demonstrated the Justice Department’s commitment to trailing and recovering corruption proceeds.