Kola Aluko
Image of the building in New York where Aluko had a penthouse apartment. Insert, Kola Aluko, the fugitive oil baron

A yet-to-be identified buyer has paid $36 million for the luxury penthouse at the One57 tower in New York formerly owned by wanted Nigerian oilman Kola Aluko.

Quoting Bloomberg, Curbed reported that the 79th floor apartment was sold at a foreclosure auction.

The transaction means a $15m loss on the property.

The oil magnate wanted in Nigeria by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for fraudulent oil deals estimated at $1.5 billion, bought the apartment in 2014 for $51 million.

Aluko along with his business partner Jide Omokore, also has a case to answer in the United States for alleged money laundering charges.

With oil deals closed in Nigeria, Aluko subsequently defaulted on mortgage and tax payments on the property.

The Luxembourg-based Banque Havilland which issued the mortgage on the One57 apartment had initially planned to put the apartment up for auction in July, but foreclosure proceedings were delayed after another one of Kola Aluko’s creditors came forward and claimed the Nigerian oilman owed it about $83 million for gasoline and jet fuel.

The bank attempted to sell the property in September for $39 million but couldn’t get any buyer.

So it was put back on the auction block.

The 47-year-old tycoon, linked to former oil minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, has vanished from the radar since he was being looked for by both the US authorities and the EFCC.

A Nigerian court tried to freeze Aluko’s assets, including his One57 unit, as part of the alleged scheme to defraud the government of oil sale profits.

But the court could not find Aluko to serve him with papers. It is believed that he may simply be floating around the world on his 213-foot yacht, the Galactica Star., bought at a cost of $80million, despite strong objections by Nigeria’s former oil minister, Diezani Alison Madueke. Her objection was made known via court papers filed by America’s Justice Department.

In 2015, the ship was sailing around the Mediterranean. It was spotted in Cancun last year, and may now be berthed in Turkey.

The ship, apart from the penthouse, has been listed for seizure by the US government, in the case filed in Houston, Texas.

Both Aluko and Omokore are alleged in the case to have paid bribes between 2011 and 2015 to Diezani who ensured that shell companies owned by the businessmen received billion-dollar contracts to sell Nigeria’s crude oil.

The oil swap contracts were a controversial barter arrangement which saw Nigeria use middlemen to sell crude oil in exchange for refined products. With local refineries under-performing, oil swap deals were used to shore up local demand for petroleum products.

Between 2010 and 2014, under Diezani’s watch, Nigeria was estimated to have channeled over 352 million barrels of oil worth a total of $35 billion into oil swap deals.

But with the contracts mostly opaque, Nigeria reportedly lost more than $900 million in crude oil swap deals between 2009 and 2012.

The deals came under severe scrutiny with former Central Bank Governor now Emir Muhammadu Sanusi describing them “not properly structured, monitored and audited.”

President Buhari cancelled the oil swap arrangement in November 2015, seven months after taking office.

The US Justice Department (DOJ) lawsuit provided more insight into the scale of theft of Nigeria’s oil riches under Diezani Alison-Madueke’s watch.

The civil lawsuit, brought by DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, is seeking to recover $144 million in assets.



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