19th July 2017
Benin City, Nigeria…The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, has commended the filing of a civil suit by the United States Department of Justice, DOJ, to forfeit and recover over $100million laundered in and through the US, and has tasked the Nigerian government to follow through with the plan to assist the United States DOJ in the prosecution of the civil suit.
ANEEJ Executive Director, the Rev David Ugolor, in a statement said that the action of the United States, Department of Justice, together with its resolve to seize and repatriate all funds immediately and remotely linked to monies siphoned from Nigeria under any guise is welcome and laudable.
“What transpired between Nigeria’s former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison- Madueke and her business fronts, Kolawole Aluko and Olajide Aludo, resulting in the diversion of about $1.8billion, which was siphoned abroad and hidden in choice property in the United States is an example of how corrupt Nigerian public officers collude with fronts to rip the country off. The payment and receipt of bribes for juicy contracts has been an all-time ploy by corrupt public officials who seek to bring legitimacy to their ill-gotten wealth through purchase of property”, the Rev Ugolor said.
ANEEJ also called on the United States authorities to equally consider expediting actions in the repatriation of $100million Late General Sani Abacha loot stashed in America which began last year.
According to the Department of Justice complaint, from 2011 to 2015, Nigerian businessmen Kolawole Akanni Aluko and Olajide Omokore conspired with others to pay bribes to Nigeria’s former Minister for Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who oversaw Nigeria’s state-owned oil company. In return for these improper benefits, Alison-Madueke used her influence to steer lucrative oil contracts to companies owned by Aluko and Omokore. The complaint alleges that the proceeds of those illicitly awarded contracts were then laundered in and through the U.S. and used to purchase various assets subject to seizure and forfeiture, including a $50 million condominium located in one of Manhattan’s most expensive buildings – 157 W. 57th Street – and the Galactica Star, an $80 million yacht. “Business executives who engage in bribery and illegal pay-offs in order to obtain contracts create an uneven market place where honest competitor companies are put at a disadvantage. Along with the Department of Justice, international law enforcement partners and other U.S. federal agencies, the FBI is committed to pursuing all those who attempt to advance their businesses through corrupt practices.” Assistant Director Andrew W. Vale of the DOJ said in a statement through the DOJ.
“ANEEJ wants the National Assembly to demonstrate similar resolve to assist the executive arm of government in this fight to forfeit and repatriate stolen funds from Nigeria by quickly passing all relevant bills before it – the Proceeds of Crime Bill, Mutual Legal Assistance Bill, Whistle Blowers Bill and – associated with the repatriation of illicit wealth, into law.
“We wholeheartedly welcome the move by the National Assembly to get the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Bill put together and expeditiously passed and urge them to accelerate the passage to save the country from the embarrassing suspension from FATF slammed on it recently. The Federal Ministry of Justice should join force with the National Assembly to hasten its passage.
“We bemoan a situation where in a dearth of the relevant laws compels our anti-corruption agencies to take the prosecution of these high-profile cases abroad for prosecution. Apart from presenting Nigeria as having very weak law enforcement institutions, not having the relevant laws in place makes it virtually impossible to fight corruption in Nigeria”, the Rev Ugolor said.
A statement from the United States DOJ, said the FBI’s International Corruption Squads in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles and the IRS-CI are investigating the case. Trial Attorneys Stephen A. Gibbons and Michael W. Khoo of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section are prosecuting the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs is providing substantial assistance.