An investigation by SaharaReporters has revealed some of the ways in which former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and her network of accomplices, family members, and shell companies sought to conceal and launder an astonishing amount of the former minister’s corruptly acquired wealth. The laundered funds are the focus of twin investigations by British and Nigerian anti-corruption agencies.
Last Friday, the International Corruption Unit of the British National Crime Agency (NCA) arrested Mrs. Alison-Madueke and four other suspects in London.
SaharaReporters has exclusively obtained intelligence documents and briefing on financial information regarding Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s extensive acts of corruption and money laundering. Our investigation also involved interviews with several individuals in possession of highly sensitive information about the illicit flow of funds to the former minister’s front companies and individuals.
An intelligence analyst with intimate knowledge of the embattled ex-minister’s family and business network told SaharaReporters that UK investigators were focusing on several real estate properties in the United Kingdom. The source added that “[Diezani Alison-Madueke] was most likely aware that the Crown Prosecution [in the UK] was investigating her properties going back as early as 2013.”
SaharaReporters learned that British prosecutors decided to be low-key about their investigation of Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s suspicious ownership of real estate assets in the UK because the UK Foreign Office and security establishment did not want to unsettle UK-Nigerian ties by going after the former minister during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Sources in the Nigerian government and law enforcement told SaharaReporters that the National Crime Agency (NCA), which arrested Mrs. Alison-Madueke and four other suspects last Friday, did so unilaterally and without the cooperation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). However, once the EFCC read media reports about Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s arrest, their agents moved swiftly to search her residences in Abuja and elsewhere in Nigeria. The EFCC’s action led to media reports, now established to be misleading, that UK and Nigerian authorities were coordinating their investigations of the former minister.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke was the most powerful minister in the Jonathan administration, and had long been linked to shady deals and policies in Nigeria’s oil sector. She fled Nigeria in May, days before the official end of her tenure as Minister of Petroleum and the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Earlier in May, SaharaReporters reported that Mrs. Alison-Madueke booked herself a seat on the same flight in which then President-elect Buhari was traveling to London, and made awkward attempts to strike up a conversation with Mr. Buhari. A source on the flight told SaharaReporters that Mr. Buhari quietly ignored the former minister during the flight.
A Nigerian who met Mrs. Alison-Madueke in the UK said the former minister claimed she was receiving medical treatment.
How Alison-Madueke Looted Nigeria As Oil Minister:
Two of our sources said that the former Petroleum Minister acquired an astonishing sum of looted funds through shady dealings that included theft of kerosene subsidy payments, manipulation of fuel subsidy payments, so-called swap deals in which she used a number of personal and corporate fronts to sell Nigerian crude oil that was meant to be refined and brought back for local consumption, fraudulent acquisition of marginal oil fields and allocation of other lucrative oil field to fronts.
Our sources disclosed that Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s most daring fraudulent deals were her strategic partnership agreements with two respective companies officially owned by her most notorious fronts, Jide Omokore and Kola Aluko. The agreements were worth over $6 billion, according to one source. He added that another avenue of money laundering by the former minister was the controversial Malabu deal in which she, former Attorney General, Mohammed Adoke, and President Goodluck Jonathan may have pocketed close to $2 billion between them.
Our financial intelligence source said Mrs. Alison-Madueke was able to get away with her deals and schemes in the oil industry because she was “one of [former President] Jonathan’s money managers.” The same source pointed out that the Jonathan administration had designed the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to give Mr. Jonathan and Mrs. Alison-Madueke “sweeping discretionary powers to award contracts, licenses, and leases for the Nigerian petroleum industry.”
Accomplices and Companies in Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s Orbit:
SaharaReporters learned that several key individuals helped the former minister to hide her loot. Two separate intelligence reports identified one Donald Chidi Amamgbo as a key figure in Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s money laundering activities. Mr. Omokore, Mr. Aluko and Walter Wagbatsoma were also named as close collaborators in the former minister’s suspicious web of financial activities.
Mr. Aluko, who went to near-anonymity to become a flashy, high-flying and yacht-owning “entrepreneur,” was identified as a “money-launderer” for Mr. Jonathan and Mrs. Alison-Madueke. Our source claimed that Mr. Aluko recently bought several real estate properties in Los Angeles and New York ranging between $8 million and $23 million. Recently, rap mogul, Jay Z, and his wife, Beyoncé, spent their vacation on a $50 million yacht owned by Mr. Aluko.
According to our source, Mr. Aluko’s flamboyant lifestyle led Mr. Jonathan and Mrs. Alison-Madueke to decide to use more discreet fronts. Besides, the source added, Mr. Aluko also fell out with the former Petroleum Minister Diezani when he absconded with funds he was supposed to have laundered for her and the former president.
Mr. Aluko’s Atlantic Energy, formally known as Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited (AEDCNL), was part of a network of corporate entities used to conceal and launder the former minister’s looted funds. Mr. Aluko established the company in Zug, Switzerland with Swiss national Stephan Koller and Nigerian national Temidayo Adeoye Okusame in 2011.
Oscar Mbeche, who became the Swiss based Atlantic Energy Chairman of Board of Directors in 2012, began his work with the company as an employee. Speaking to SaharaReporters, Mr. Mbeche explained “I was recruited to set up the Audit, Risk and Compliance department to establish the right governance setup and framework required for European listing by any company wishing to get listed in a European stock exchange. By virtue of my being a Swiss resident, once the Swiss lawyer resigned as a director due to his other work pressures, I was asked to be the new resident director.”
Mr. Mbeche stated that he was recruited by an international management team based on his expertise in areas of governance and compliance. According to a statement provided to SaharaReporters by Mr. Mbeche, “I took initiative first to liquidate [Atlantic Energy] when executive management was refusing to follow through on the governance [and compliance procedures] needed to publicly list the company.”
In July 2015, SaharaReporters had published an investigative report that revealed connections between Mrs. Alison-Madueke, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), and Atlantic Energy. This website reported, “on July 19, 2010, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited (AEDCNL) was incorporated as a portfolio company,” adding that this was barely three months after Mrs. Alison-Madueke assumed office as the Minister of Petroleum Resources. The report continued: “Atlantic Energy, even without prior record of successful experience in the oil and gas sector, announced that it had entered into a Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA) with the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) in April 2011. That was exactly six months before AEDCNL was legally born.”
One oil industry expert told SaharaReporters that there was widespread shock when Mrs. Alison-Madueke awarded an unknown company like Atlantic Energy a strategic agreement with the NPDC “without following any process as stipulated in the government procurement laws and policy.” The stated that oil industry operators knew that the deal between Atlantic Energy and the NPDC “was an unholy arrangement” between the former minister, top NPDC officials, Kola Aluko and Jide Omokore. He identified Mr. Omokore as a “controversial business mogul” and political financier.
According to a report published by the Natural Resource Governance Institute, Atlantic Energy had entered into strategic alliance deals with the NPDC for at least five oil blocks or oil mining leases.
Walter Wagbatsoma, also listed as a “money manager” for the former Petroleum Minister, runs several companies that investigators found to be entangled in Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s financial activities. An intelligence report discussing Mr. Wagbatsoma’s business dealings found that “he holds a private plane, said to be bought by [Mrs. Alison-Madueke], probably in 2011, in trust for the Petroleum Minister.”
However, Mr. Wagbatsoma is associated with a shadowy energy company named Ontario Oil and Gas, which trades Nigerian crude on international markets and whose directors are currently facing money-laundering trial in Nigerian courts. According to the Berne Declaration, an independent watchdog organization, Ontario Oil and Gas continues to export Nigerian crude despite accusations by the Nigerian government that the company misappropriated more than 4.2 billion naira—and arrests of the firm’s executives by the EFCC. According to the company’s own website, it exports at least 2 million barrels of crude oil a month.
The Natural Resource Governance Institute reported that Ontario Oil and Gas, along with another company, Aiteo, saw “their shares of the Nigerian crude and products markets grow rapidly under the Jonathan government,” despite their very limited experience. The report also noted: “Ontario relied on a few foreign traders to take its [petroleum] allocation to market.”
Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s third accomplice, who was described as such in two separate intelligence reports leaked to SaharaReporters, is Donald Chidi Amamgbo. Mr. Amamgbo reportedly studied law at Howard University in Washington, DC at the same time Mrs. Alison-Madueke was studying there as a student of architecture. It is believed that they met each other in DC.
According to biographical information available in intelligence reports, in January 2012 Mr. Amamgbo was suspended from practicing law in California, where he relocated, for one year. However, his main focus seemed to have already turned to managing three companies under his ownership, specifically Tidax Energy, Mezcor SA, and Lynear SA.
Tradax, Mezcor, and Lynear are all based out of Geneva, Switzerland and all three are connected to a Portuguese national, Daniel Roy Joanes, and an American national, Richard Levinson. The Natural Resources Governance Institute characterized Tridax as an example of suspicious conduct because the firm’s “corporate structures stretch outside Nigeria.” The report found that Mr. Amamgbo owned 49% of Tridax with the remaining 51% of the ownership belonging to Tridax Oil domiciled in Switzerland. Further tracing the corporate structure of Tridax, it was revealed that 100% of it is owned by a sister company based in Malta, with 99% of that company owned by Calpenergy Fund in Gibraltar, with 67% of it owned in turn by Daniel Roy Joanes, with the remaining 33% owned by Turicum Private Bank also located in Gibraltar. This kind of circuitous ownership arrangement often typifies an attempt by a corporate entity’s real owners to hide their identities.
SaharaReporters obtained an intelligence report that stated, “Mezcor SA is clearly the lead company of the three run by Amamgbo.” Mr. Amamgbo also owns 49% of Mezcor, with the remaining 51% owned by Mr. Joanes and Mr. Levinson. Mr. Joanes, who previously worked as an asset manager for Clariden Leu, later worked for Bank Hapoalim. He also owns NFS Partners, which is co-located in the same office as Mezcor in Geneva.
Mr. Levinson is described in one report as having “a scandalous past” and has the dubious distinction of owning one of the first companies to be suspended by the US government for fraudulent activity during reconstruction after the Iraq War in 2003. According to the Wall Street Journal, “a [US] federal jury in Alexandria, VA found that Custer Battles [owned by Levinson] defrauded the US government of $3 million by filing faked invoices.”
US authorities later discovered that Mr. Levinson’s companies billed the American government $10 million for work estimated to actually cost only $4 million. In a curious corporate sleight of hand, Mr. Levinson sold Custer Battles to Danubia Global Inc., a company based in Bucharest, Romania, for one dollar. It turned out that he owned Danubia as well.
One intelligence investigation found that Mr. Levinson “acts as a director of the five companies [in which] Daniel Roy Joanes is also a director.”
According to another investigation, Tridax is a beneficiary of one of “38 contracts for 1,179,000 barrels per day crude lifting awarded by the [Nigerian] Federal Government last year.” The NNPC, which awards these contracts, also awarded a contract to Mezcor SA and two companies it worked with—India Oil Company and Fujairah Refinery.
These companies’ ties to Mrs. Alison-Madueke extend beyond questionable crude oil lifting contracts and her relationship with Mr. Donald Chidi Amamgbo. Investigators showed SaharaReporters documents that established that Timi John Agama, the former Petroleum Minister’s younger brother, has a financial stake and is a part owner of both Mezcor and Tridax.
The Madueke-Agama Family Business Network:
SaharaReporters has learned, from profiles of Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s sons, brothers, and nephews, that the family’s core businesses are suspiciously located at a single address: Unit 8, Quebec Buildings, Manchester M3 7DU in the United Kingdom. The main business is listed as Hadley Petroleum Solutions Ltd. But other corporate entities registered at the same location include Ryan and Bell Solutions Ltd., Callserv Ltd., Parrot Mobile Ltd., Mail Express Ltd., and Stone International Ltd.
All these companies are associated with close members of Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s family, including nephews Abu Fari, Abiye Agama, Somze Agama, and her son, Ugonna Madueke. According to one intelligence report, “key in the Diezani Alison-Madueke family business structure is her elder brother, Doye, who is a Pentecostal Archbishop based in Manchester, UK. SaharaReporters learned that in addition to his business activities with the Madueke-Agama family, Bishop Agama presides over the Apostolic Pastoral Congress located in Manchester, UK.
Before becoming part of the clergy in 1994, Mr. Doye Agama worked as a telecommunications consultant to the oil industry, central and local government and the emergency services.
Investigators told SaharaReporters that Mrs. Alison- Madueke owns a number of properties in the United Kingdom and the United States, under a variety of names, often those of her family. One property, located in London at 22 Parkwood, St. Edmunds Terrace, St John's Wood, London, NW8 7QQ is registered in the name of her mother, Beatrice Agama. Her younger brother, Timi John Agama, has a property registered under his name at 67, Wades Hill, Winchmore Hill, London, N21 1AU.
The former minister’s elder brother, Bishop Agama, has a property located at 27 Tavistock Square, Holburn, London, WC1H 9HH registered to his name.
Winihin Ayuli-Jemide, a younger sister to Mrs. Alison-Madueke, is active in organizing a series of conferences ostensibly to empower African women. Her seminars are called the Winihin Jemide Series. Curiously, her conferences and seminars are often held in cities like London and Vienna where her elder sister, Mrs. Alison-Madueke, is suspected to have business interests. The former minister was often invited to speak at the conferences.
In the United States, the former Petroleum Minister owns three properties that are registered under her maiden name, Diezani K. Agama. They include a posh apartment located at 1220 West Highway, Silver Spring, Maryland, with the zip code of 20910. Her son, Ugonna Madueke, has at least three properties registered in his name, two in Virginia and one in Maryland. The former minister’s son’s properties in Virginia are located at 11711 Scooter Lane, Fairfax, VA 22030, and 4227 Summit Manor Ct, Fairfax, VA 22033. His property in Maryland is at 13116 Silver Maple Ct, Bowie, MD 20715.
The former minister’s husband, Admiral Alison Amaechina Madueke, was Nigeria’s former Chief of Naval Staff. On retiring, Mr. Madueke went into the maritime services business, serving as the chairman or director of numerous companies, including Radam Maritime Services Ltd.
A previous version of this report incorrectly listed Mr. Oscar Mbeche as a founding board member of Atlantic Energy in Switzerland. Mr. Mbeche first joined as an employee and was later asked to be the Swiss resident director and Chairman of the Board of Directors in 2012.