March 20, 2019

Judge allows the US government to sell luxury yacht connected to a Nigerian corruption case

On March 20, 2019, a federal judge granted a motion by the US Department of Justice and the Federal Republic of Nigeria to sell what the DOJ previously described as an “$82 million luxury yacht.”  The DOJ alleges that the yacht was purchased by Kolawole Akanni Aluko using illicit proceeds from a corruption scheme.

Specifically, the DOJ has alleged that Aluko and Olajide Omokore purchased millions of dollars in real estate in and around London for Diezani Alison-Madueke, the former Nigerian Minister for Petroleum Resources.  In return for these improper gifts, the DOJ alleges, Alison-Madueke used her position to steer multiple contracts to companies beneficially owned by Aluko and Omokore.  The government further alleges that Aluko and Omokore laundered the illicit revenues earned from these contracts through the United States.  The revenue was used to acquire, among other things, the 195 foot yacht.

Although the court has not ruled the yacht is subject to forfeiture, the DOJ moved for an “interlocutory sale” of the “super-yacht” given the significant cost to maintain the yacht.  The court agreed that continued possession of the yacht by the government would result in excessive costs for maintenance and storage and that the yacht was depreciating.  As such, the court granted the government’s motion to sell the yacht.  The proceeds from the sale will be held in an escrow account maintained by the US government.

Decision (on docket report)

First Amended Verified Complaint

Motion for Sale of Yacht