$50 million yacht linked to Diezani’s ally sold

Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke dragged by the EFCC.
Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke dragged by the EFCC.

Galactica Star, a super yacht belonging to oil magnate, Kola Aluko, fingered in multi-billion dollar petrol import and crude export deals has been sold.

The yacht, valued at $50 million, was sold after the Nigerian government and U.S. Department of Justice secured a court order to forfeit the property.

Mrs Alison-Madueke, Mr Aluko and another accomplice, Jide Omokore , reportedly lavished billions of naira on property and luxury items in the U.S. and United Kingdom.

Mrs Alison-Madueke, Mr Aluko and another accomplice, Jide Omokore , reportedly lavished billions of naira on property and luxury items in the U.S. and United Kingdom.

The U.S. government also accused Messrs Aluko Omokore of laundering money in the United States and using it to acquire the yacht, among other assets.

Following prosecution, the US and Nigerian government, in 2016, instituted legal processes to enable it freeze local and foreign assets of the trio.

In a suit filed at the Houston Division of the United States District Court, the Nigerian government laid legal claim to all assets subject to forfeiture.

Nigerian government maintained that all of the properties are proceeds of theft, embezzlement or misappropriation.

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“Nigeria is the innocent owner of all the claimed property and upon learning of the conduct giving rise to the forfeiture, did all that reasonably could be expected under the circumstances to terminate such use of the claimed property.

“By reason of the fraudulent, corrupt, criminal and otherwise wrongful means by which the conspirators obtained or derived all of the claimed property, the conspirators have no legal or equitable right, claim or interest therein but instead the conspirators and each of them were involuntarily trustees holding all of the claimed property and profits, proceeds or property traceable thereto in constructive trust for the claimant Nigeria, with the duty to convey the same to Nigeria forthwith,” Nigeria stated in its statement of interest.

Approval

The US and Nigerian governments received Federal Court approval to sell the superyacht in March 2019.

Law360, a legal news source, reported that U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison approved it due to the high maintenance and dockage fees, estimating the combined cost at around $170,000 per month.

“The court also finds that the yacht is subject to market value depreciation and deterioration while it remains in the government’s possession,” he adds.

Following the court approval, the sealed bid was contracted to Fraser to manage in April at a reserve price of $42 million. The bid was planned to close on May 19.

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According to Yacht Harbour, the 65-metre Galactica Star, was announced sold on July 25, with Fraser representing the seller and Burgess representing the buyer.

Yacht Harbour reports that the yacht was sold for the $42 million asking price.

When contacted, an official of Fraser confirmed the sale but declined comment on the identity of the buyer and the price the yacht was sold.

“It’s confidential information. We are not allowed to give that out,” the official said.

Galactica Star, Heesen’ second largest yacht was built for nimble and long-range cruising with top speeds in the range of 28 knots.

The custom-built interior, designed by Bannenberg and Rowell, accommodates 12 guests in six staterooms.

Solicitor, government mum

The Nigerian government was represented by A.O.E Law and Associates, a Los Angeles-based law firm in the case.

Sedoo Manu, one of the legal representatives of the law firm told PREMIUM TIMES to direct all enquiries to the Ministry of Justice.

“Our office is in receipt of your email below. We are however unable to independently verify your identity based on the information provided in your email. Please note that as a matter of policy, we do not discuss cases with the media without prior authorisation from our clients,” he replied via mail.

Mr Manu also asked this reporter to seek clarifications on the subject from the ministry.

PREMIUM TIMES could not get an audience with any official of the ministry.

Salihu Isah, spokesperson to newly inaugurated re-appointed Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, did not respond to enquiries sent via text.

Calls made through to his line did get through.

Background

According to court papers detailing the corruption case, Mrs Alison-Madueke during her tenure as minister connived with Messrs Aluko and Omokore, both business partners, to purchase millions of dollars in real estate in and around London, U.K. The purchase was for the purpose benefit of Mrs Alison-Madueke’s family.

As part of the purchases, the two business partners bought furniture, artwork and other furnishing in the range of one million dollars and shipped same to London and Abuja for the use of the then minister.

The also funded a lavish lifestyle for the former minister.

Recently, the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on Friday ordered an interim forfeiture of the jewellery valued at an estimated $40 million, following an application brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria’s anti-graft commission.

The anti-graft agency told the court that it found and recovered the jewellery, including wristwatches, necklaces, bracelets, bangles, earrings and customised gold iPhone “on the premises of the respondent,” adding that it reasonably suspected that the former minister acquired them with “proceeds of unlawful activities.”

As further alleged in the US court papers, Mrs Alison-Madueke, in return for the favour by her accomplices, used her influence as a minister to award contracts to companies beneficially owned by both men.

Part of these are the award of multiple Strategic Alliance Agreements (SAAs) with an NNPC subsidiary.

It was alleged that the companies that received these SAAs were unqualified and either improperly performed their obligations or, in some instances, failed entirely to perform.

Nevertheless, these companies received more than $1.5 billion in revenues through the sale of Nigerian crude oil.

The duo were said to have used the proceeds to acquire properties for Mrs Alison-Madueke after laundering the illicit fund in the US.

They were further alleged to have used shell companies and layered transactions to conceal the nature, source and ownership of the proceeds and purchases.

According to court papers, they have committed “specified unlawful activity.”

The US government in July 2017 prayed for a forfeiture of Mrs Alison-Madueke’s properties.

“This is an action in rem to forfeit approximately $144 million in assets, and any property traceable thereto, derived from an international conspiracy to obtain lucrative business opportunities in the Nigerian oil and gas sector in return for corruptly offering and giving millions of dollars’ worth of gifts and benefits to the former Nigerian Minister for Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke (“ALISON-MADUEKE”); and to subsequently launder the proceeds of the illicit business opportunities into and through the United States,” the US government prayed.

In a suit filed in 2017 the Nigerian government also laid legal claim to all assets subject to forfeiture.

The terms of proceed sharing formula between the two countries are not known yet.

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