Diezani Warned Aluko Against Buying $80m Ultra-luxury Yacht
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 $80m.
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 channelled over 352 million barrels of oil worth a total of $35bn into oil swap deals.
But with the contracts mostly opaque, Nigeria reportedly lost more than $900m in crude oil swap deals between 2009 and 2012.
The deals came under severe scrutiny with former Central Bank Governor now Emir Muhammadu Sanusi describing them “not properly structured, monitored and audited.”
President Buhari cancelled the oil swap arrangement in November 2015, seven months after taking office.
The US Justice Department 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 $144m in assets, including a $50m luxury condo apartment in New York and the $80m 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.
Prosecutors claim that the businessmen, Kolawole Aluko and Olajide Omokore, laundered money through the US by purchasing lavish assets.
The $50m New York condo is at One57, located opposite Carnegie Hall in midtown Manhattan. The building currently holds the record for the most-expensive residential sale in New York following a $100.5m apartment purchase in 2014.
Aluko’s $50m condo is the 8th most expensive in the building, but following a loan default, his mortgage lenders are set to auction the apartment on July 19.
Aluko is also said to have purchased Galactica Star, a $80m 65-meter yacht which hosted Beyonce’s 32nd birthday bash in 2013.
Aluko’s yacht and penthouse are not the only items under scrutiny by the DOJ.
The government also alleges that Aluko, Omokore and others funded a lavish lifestyle for Alison-Madueke.
The yacht, which costs $80 million is 65 metres in length and can travel at 28 knots (32 mph) in favourable conditions.
The Galactica Star can house up to 12 guests and contains a full-beam master suite, an upper-deck VIP cabin, and four further double cabins.
Beyond this, is a “beach club” with a 10-square-metre balcony, tons of space to entertain guests, and a helipad.