Lavish lifestyles are nothing out of the ordinary in New York City – home of the rich and glamorous.
But some recent over-the-top purchases set off alarm bells at the U.S. Dept. of Justice, the FBI’s International Corruption Squads in two cities, the IRS-Criminal Enforcement Division, and the aptly named Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.
The purchases included a $50 million condo located in one of Manhattan’s most expensive building – 157 W. 57th Street, unit 79, as well as the Galactica Star, a yacht with an $80 million price tag.
The buyers were no ordinary hedge fund Wall Street types. They were oil dealers, signing “oil swap” contracts – buying crude, selling refined – with Nigeria’s state-owned oil company. One of the conspirators included the former oil minister herself.
Details of the scheme were revealed this week by officials of the U.S. Justice Department who are seeking the recovery of approximately $144 million in assets obtained in Nigeria and laundered in and through the U.S. and the UK.
According to the complaint filed in Houston, Texas, ex-minister Diezani Alison-Madueke used her influence to steer lucrative oil contracts to the two Nigerian businessmen, Kolawole Akanni Aluko and Olajide Omokore.
Despite being unqualified and in some instances failing entirely to perform services under the contracts, their shell companies received more than $1.5 billion in revenues through the sale of crude oil, the lawsuit said.
When the scheme came to light, Ms. Alison-Madueke could be heard on tape dressing down her associates. “How the two of you ruined (the plan) is incredulous and incredible…If you want to hire a yacht, you lease it for two weeks or whatever,” she said, adding that if convicted, she’d be happy to join them in jail.
A foreclosure auction is to be held on or about July 19 for the 57th St apt. and the luxury boat.
Corruption has roots in America too, observed former president Barack Obama .“Indeed, many of the funds illicitly and illegally earned in Africa end up in the United States, where criminals create anonymous shell companies to hide their money and avoid prosecution.”
Meanwhile, the African Union inaugurated its first African Anti-Corruption Day with 12 out of 49 countries yet to sign on. AU commission chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat, urged African leaders to wage an aggressive fight against those who practice corruption and the institutions that benefit from the proceeds of corruption to restore public trust in our institutions on the Continent.”