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.