Court documents filed in Houston by the US Justice Department in the assets forfeiture proceedings filed against former peyroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and her business cronies, Kola Aluko and Jide Omokore, have revealed the third man in the $1.7 billion swindle of Nigeria.
He is Igho Sanomi, one of Nigeria’s young billionaires, who owns the Taleveras Oil Group.
Taleveras, along with oil traders Arcadia and Glencore, were found to have paid $1.2 billion into Kola Aluko’s account in Switzerland, proceeds from crude oil lifted from Aluko and Omokore’s company.
This money, the US Justice Department contends, was used to fund Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s luxury lifestyle. But in a statement Wednesday, Taleveras said its involvement in the alleged dubious transactions followed best international practices, as a third party.
“This legal case is not against Taleveras or Igho Sanomi.
“As it relates to the US department case against Atlantic Drilling, please note that Taleveras and the other two major oil trading houses (Glencore and Arcadia) were not faulted for embarking on a legitimate transaction, as all payments were made based on legitimate third party contracts with private companies and not NNPC,” the company said.
Mrs. Alison-Madueke, as oil minister between 2010 and 2015, used her influence to facilitate inappropriate business opportunities for Messrs. Aluko and Omokore by assigning to their companies, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts (AEDC) Limited and Atlantic Energy Brass Development (AEBD) Limited, eight oil mining leases (OMLs).
The OMLs were assigned under Strategic Alliance Agreements (SAAs) with the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Despite lacking the technical expertise and financial capacity to operate the OMLs, as noted in a February 2014 report of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mrs. Alison-Madueke greenlighted the process for her cronies.
What followed, said US prosecutors, was the sale by AEDC and AEBD of the oil-lifting allocations they were assigned under the Forcados and Brass SAAs to third-party oil trading companies. They made tonnes of money, by not fulfilling the obligations stated in the agreements, using some of it to bribe Mrs. Alison-Madueke.
Court papers show that Taleveras Group, one of the third-party oil trading companies, paid copious sums into Mr. Aluko’s personal accounts.
The stream of payments, prosecutors observed, began shortly after the award of the Forcados SAAs. Over a period of six months, Mr. Aluko received the sum of $15million in his personal account domiciled at LGT Bank (Schweiz) AG in Switzerland (the “LGT -090038 Account”), from which various purchases for Mrs. Alison-Madueke were funded. The money came from Taleveras Group and its affiliates, including Taleveras Trading Limited and and Taleveras Petroleum Trading BV.
On July 12, 2011, prosecutors found that the sum of $1.5million was wired from Taleveras to Mr. Aluko’s account. Two days later, the sum of $1million also arrived the account from RFB Lengard JVA in which Mr. Igho Sanomi, founder and chairman of Taleveras, owns 30 per cent stake. Another $1million arrived on July 20, 2011, from Taleveras Trading Limited. This was followed on 15 August 2011 by $1million wired by Taleveras to Mr. Aluko’s account in Switzerland as payment for a Joint Venture contract with RFB Lengard. The same day, he received $650,000 from the same source.
On September 12, 2011, Taleveras Trading Limited paid $1million and $1.6million four days later. On 5 October of the same year, Mr. Aluko’s account was credited with $1.5million by Taleveras Petroleum Trading BV and $500,000 six days later. The next batch of cash arrived on 14 November 2011, when his account received $2million wired by Taleveras Group. On January 3 and 10 2012, $600,000 and $1million respectively were paid by Taleveras Petroleum Trading BV.
Prosecutors reckoned that the payments were made to Mr. Aluko in return for assigning the AEDC’s rights to Taleveras and RFB Lengard to lift oil under the corruptly acquired SAAs.
They discovered that each of the transactions was subsequently transferred into and out of correspondent bank accounts at a financial institution, which processes its U.S. dollar wire transactions through Newark, New Jersey.