US moves to seize $140M from Nige­rian oil cor­rup­tion

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

WASH­ING­TON: US of­fi­cials said Fri­day they plan to con­fis­cate $144 mil­lion in cor­rup­tion-tainted as­sets of Nige­rian oil ex­ec­u­tives found in the United States in­clud­ing an $80 mil­lion yacht the “Galac­tica Star.” The yacht and a $50 mil­lion con­do­minium over­look­ing New York’s famed Cen­tral Park were among the riches tied to dirty con­tracts awarded by Nige­ria’s for­mer oil min­is­ter be­tween 2011 and 2015, the US Jus­tice De­part­ment said state­ment.

“The United States is not a safe haven for the pro­ceeds of cor­rup­tion,” act­ing As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken­neth Blanco said. “Cor­rupt for­eign of­fi­cials and busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives should make no mis­take: if il­licit funds are within the reach of the United States, we will seek to for­feit them and to re­turn them to the vic­tims from whom they were stolen.” The as­sets were pur­chased us­ing pro­ceeds of oil sec­tor con­tracts awarded by Nige­ria’s for­mer min­is­ter for petroleum re­sources, Diezani Ali­son-Madueke, who over­saw the state oil com­pany, ac­cord­ing to the Jus­tice De­part­ment.

Pros­e­cu­tors al­lege she ac­cepted bribes from oil ex­ec­u­tives Ko­la­wole Akanni Aluko and Ola­jide Omokore, who spent mil­lions of dol­lars buy­ing and fur­nish­ing Lon­don-area homes with art­work, fur­ni­ture and other lux­ury items ac­quired in Texas. The min­is­ter al­legedly steered lu­cra­tive oil con­tracts to com­pa­nies owned by Aluko and Omokore, which sold $1.5 bil­lion worth of Nige­rian crude.

They then used shell cor­po­ra­tions and in­ter­me­di­aries to laun­der the funds through US banks and buy the as­sets which the Jus­tice De­part­ment is now seek­ing to seize. Un­der for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, the Jus­tice De­part­ment in 2010 launched a “klep­toc­racy” ini­tia­tive to re­cover the ill-got­ten gains of cor­rupt for­eign of­fi­cials. The ini­tia­tive has had mixed re­sults but in 2014 col­lected a $500 mil­lion once held by the for­mer Nige­rian dic­ta­tor Sani Abacha and his cronies.—AFP

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