The U.S. government wants to seize a penthouse condominium unit at One57 and a yacht that belongs to Nigerian energy magnate Kolawole “Kola” Aluko, claiming they were bought as part of a $144 million money laundering scheme.
The Justice Department filed the lawsuit on Friday in Houston, Bloomberg reported. It claims both the penthouse at One57 , which cost $50.9 million, and the $80 million yacht called the Galactica Star were paid for with money Aluko made by bribing the oil minister in Nigeria, according to the New York Post.
Aluko, executive director of Atlantic Energy, had not been keeping up with payments on the 6,240-square-foot unit. Luxembourg-based Banque Havilland, which issued a $35.3 million mortgage due last fall, is foreclosing on the apartment. It is due to be sold at auction this week.
Aluko is accused of bankrolling his extravagant lifestyle with funds he scored by defrauding the Nigerian government of its oil sale profits. The suit alleges that Aluko and another man paid bribes to the Nigerian oil minister, who in return directed contracts to shell companies owned by the pair. They are accused of then laundering the money in the U.S. by purchasing $144 million in assets, including the condo and the yacht.
“Corrupt foreign officials and business executives should make no mistake: if illicit funds are within the reach of the United States, we will seek to forfeit them and to return them to the victims from whom they were stolen,” acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said in a statement cited by Bloomberg. [NYP] and [Bloomberg] — Miriam Hall