Another Nigeria’s young billionaires and owner of the Taleveras Oil Group, Igho Sanomi, has been named in the US Justice Department assets forfeiture proceedings filed against former peyroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and her business cronies, Kola Aluko and Jide Omokore.
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, court document filed in Huston has revealed.
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.
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 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, 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 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 Aluko’s account. Two days later, the sum of $1million also arrived the account from RFB Lengard JVA in which 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 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, 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 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.
According to prosecutors, AEDC entered into an agreement with the Arcadia Group and its subsidiaries, from which AEDC purportedly took loans. In return, Arcadia was repaid with assignments of AEDC’s crude oil liftings under the dodgy SAAs. The company describes itself as a “global commodity trading firm covering oil, agricultural, gas and power markets”.
“In particular, two months after the last payment from Taleveras, Arcadia Energy (Suisse) SA and Arcadia Petroleum Limited began making payments to an account held in the name of AEH at LGT Bank (Schweiz) AG ending in -108031 (the LGT -108031 Account),” said prosecutors.
On April 18, 2012, Arcadia paid $10million into the above stated account. On May 14 of the same year, it paid $1.3million and on July 23,
$2.4million. On July 24, 2012, the company paid $1.3million into the same account. Less than a month later, it paid $2.9million into the same account and followed it up with a whopping $25million September 17, 2012.
The next day, it paid $2.091million into the same account. This preceded a hefty transfer of $23.4million on January 8, 2013. A couple of days later, Arcadia paid $1.6million and on February 4, 2013, wired $2million to the account. This was followed by the payment of $1.1million, $6million and $1.7million respectively.
The stunt continued with payments to a company, Glencore, by AEBD, which sold to Glencore over 7million barrels of crude oil acquired through the Brass SAA. Glencore’s payments for these allotments, said prosecutors, were made to an account in the name of AEBD ending in 184001 at Deutsche Bank (Suisse) SA and an account ending in -630350 in the name of AEBD at Standard Chartered Bank, London. They were also made into accounts in the name of AEBD ending in 677644 at Standard Chartered Bank, London; and 9941 at Stanbic IBTC, Nigeria.
Glencore, for example, paid $83.6million to AEBD on April 5, 2013; $80.5million, $79.4million on July 4, $19.8million July 17, $19.5million on July 19 and $83.4million on July 21.