Court documents filed by the US Department of Justice in Houston have revealed that Nigeria’s former oil minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke 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 said to Aluko in a recorded conversation.
But her warning was not heeded as Aluko went on to buy Galactica Star, a luxury yacht, for $80million,Quartz Africa
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.
Both Aluko and Omokore are alleged to have paid bribes between 2011 and 2015 to Diezani who ensured that shell companies owned by the businessmen received billion-dollar contracts to sell Nigeria’s crude oil.
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, under Diezani’s watch, Nigeria was estimated to have channeled over 352 million barrels of oil worth a total of $35 billion into oil swap deals.
The US Justice Department (DOJ) lawsuit has provided more insight into the scale of theft of Nigeria’s oil riches under Diezani Alison-Madueke’s watch.
The civil lawsuit, brought by DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, is seeking to recover $144 million in assets, including a $50 million luxury condo apartment in New York and the $80 million yacht.
Prosecutors say both assets were proceeds from bribes paid by two Nigerian businessmen for lucrative Nigerian oil contracts. The lawsuit seeks the forfeiture of both assets.
The government also alleges that Aluko, Omokore and others funded a lavish lifestyle for Alison-Madueke.
According to the allegations, they conspired to purchase millions of dollars in real estate in and around London for Alison-Madueke and her family members, then renovated and furnished these homes with millions of dollars in furniture, artwork and other luxury items purchased at two Houston-area furniture stores at Alison-Madueke’s direction.