Kola Aluko, a Nigerian oil magnate now wanted in the UK for money laundering, has admitted that he paid rent for a high-end apartment for the mother of a former minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Mr. Aluko told the British Sunday Times newspaper that he was responsible for paying rent for Mrs. Beatrice Agama, the former minister’s mother. He also said he ensured that food was brought to the minister’s mother at the St. John’s Wood property. Last month, a UK court approved the confiscation of funds belonging to Mrs. Agama. The court also authorized the seizure of funds belonging to Melanie Spencer, the wife of a Ghanaian oil tycoon, Kevin Okyere, implicated in the money laundering investigation involving the former minister. According to the report in The Sunday Times, “Aluko confirmed a probe over potential violations of the UK Proceeds of Crime Act and Bribery Act but professed his innocence. He said: ‘I’m willing to co-operate with anybody. I have nothing to hide.’”
The British newspaper also reported that, in early 2011, Mr. Aluko’s Atlantic Energy “signed a lucrative strategic alliance giving it rights to sell oil from four big blocks on behalf of Nigeria’s national oil company. Before the oil price crashed, Aluko said the commercial value of the contract was an estimated $7bn.”
The paper added: “Aluko admitted he paid the rent on a flat in St John’s Wood in London for Alison-Madueke’s mother, as well as bringing her ‘hams, sausages and orchids’. He said these were simply gifts to a friend, given long after Atlantic had signed its deal.”
Mr. Aluko’s Atlantic Energy company is at the center of a reported $6 billion heist from the Nigerian treasury.Mr. Aluko’s statement to the UK newspaper is highly significant because it is the first public admission by the flamboyant and controversial oil tycoon of financial exchanges between him and Mrs. Alison-Madueke. The former Petroleum Minister was arrested last month in London and later granted bail by the anti-corruption unit of the UK National Crime Agency.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke had handpicked Mr. Aluko, who has Swiss citizenship, for lucrative, shady deals in the Nigerian oil sector. Once the deal was inked, Mr. Aluko indulged a passion for glamorous women, including supermodel Naomi Campbell, swanky homes, expensive cars, a yacht and junkets in the world’s glitziest spots where he partied with Hollywood celebrities.
The UK government has officially filed a Mutual Legal Assistance request seeking to interrogate Mr. Aluko in Switzerland. The Sunday Times reported that the request has now been sent to the Swiss Attorney General for implementation.Another Nigerian involved in the multibillion scam, Jide Omokore, has reportedly offered to refund $500 million to the Nigerian government, but his offer has not been accepted by President Muhammadu Buhari, according to a source in the Nigerian Presidency. “President Buhari wants him [Mr. Omokore] to increase the amount he is offering to refund to the country,” the source said.
According to the same source, Mr. Omokore was also insisting that he would refund part of his ill-acquired funds on certain conditions, including the government allowing his oil businesses to continue.