The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is ready to testify against a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and oil barons, Kola Aluko and Jide Omokore in the United States and the United Kingdom, as we learnt.
Our correspondent also learnt that further evidence had been sent to the US Justice Department, as well as the UK’s National Crime Agency with a view to repatriating part of the $1.6bn allegedly stolen by Alison-Madueke, Aluko and Omokore.
Omokore, Aluko and four others are standing trial before a Federal High Court on nine counts of criminal diversion of about $1.6bn alleged to be proceeds of the sale of petroleum products belonging to the Federal Government.
A source at the anti-graft agency said, “We have sent evidence to the UK and the US on this case. The investigation involves many countries because these guys bought properties on different continents.
“We also update them as the case in court continues to unfold. We will be willing to testify if need be. This was how we assisted the UK in the James Ibori case. We will continue to work together.”
While Omokore is currently in Nigeria, Aluko has continued to elude both local and foreign authorities for over a year and was last seen in Porza-Lugano, Switzerland, in 2016.
It was learnt that the anti-graft agency has been sending court testimonies to the US and the UK, as well as sworn affidavits deposed to by key witnesses against the three primary suspects.
The key witnesses are a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Andrew Yakubu; the Managing Director, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Limited, Yusufu Matashi; as well as some officials of the EFCC.
Omokore and Aluko were accused of creating two shell companies in the British Virgin Islands — Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria and Atlantic Energy Brass Development — to handle their oil contracts.
Though the companies did not meet all the requirements set by the Bureau of Public Procurements, they were said to be given the contract through the influence of Alison-Madueke.
After failing to fulfil the terms of their deals, they were allowed to produce and sell about $1.6bn worth of crude oil. The duo then allegedly created additional shell companies to launder the proceeds through the US and the UK, giving kickbacks to Diezani.
According to the UK Financial Times, a prosecutor told a US court that, Aluko, a trader, who made about $500,000, became a billionaire in less than three years, purchasing $87m of US property and a yacht worth $82m.
In a conversation with Aluko that prosecutors said Diezani recorded, she criticised him for his lavish spending, saying, “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.”
Aluko and Omokore allegedly purchased millions of dollars worth of property in and near London for Diezani and her family and then furnished the homes with furniture, artwork and other luxury items from Houston-area stores that she fancied.
The report said, “In January 2011, the Nigerian businessmen and unidentified co-conspirators bought a Buckinghamshire home known as ‘The Falls’ for £3.25m. Two months later, as Aluko was meeting with Nigerian oil officials to discuss a contract, he arranged to buy two properties near London’s Regent Parks: a £1.7m home at 39 Chester Close and 58 Harley House on the Marylebone Road for £2.8m.
“The first property, upgraded with an elevator and new stone flooring and countertops, was intended for the use of Alison-Madueke’s mother and her son, according to the complaint. The men, that month, also purchased a £3.7m-flat at 83-86 Prince Albert Road for the oil minister.”
The US prosecutor alleged that on a single day in May 2012, Aluko wired $461,500 from a Swiss bank account to one furniture store and spent an additional $262,091 at a second on Diezani’s behalf.
The US prosecutors have also moved to seize $144m in assets, including a 200-foot yacht and a Manhattan condominium, one block from Central Park, calling them the fruits of an international bribery scheme that involved Diezani.
The Justice Department action targeted Aluko’s vessel Galactica Star, which its builder considered as the “world’s largest, fast displacement yacht,” along with condominium units in Manhattan and real estate in Southern California located just three miles from the Pacific Ocean.
The yacht was said to have also been rented to US star couple, Jay-Z and Beyoncé at the cost of $900,000 a week.
The acting Assistant Attorney General, Kenneth Blanco, said the properties would be sold and the fund repatriated to Nigeria.