in the back
Hiding hot money in London
Shell companies, Issue 1450
OILING THE WHEELS? Diezani Alison-Madueke, whose London properties were allegedly bought for her by deal-hunting oil tycoons Olajide Omokore and Kola Aluko
PREVIOUS Eyes have exposed various foreign ministers and officials ploughing dubious fortunes into UK property using shell companies in tax havens. Now a US court case detailing allegations of money laundering and cabinet-level corruption in the former government of Nigeria reveals that when it comes to hiding hot money, this route remains a firm favourite.

The US Department of Justice launched a civil lawsuit last month to seize $144m in assets including an $82m superyacht, artwork and luxury properties, branding them the fruits of an alleged bribery scheme involving Diezani Alison-Madueke, the former oil minister who ran the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in the corruption-soaked regime of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Prosecutors allege that between 2011 and 2015, two Nigerian oil tycoons, Kola Aluko and Olajide Omokore, conspired with others “to obtain lucrative business opportunities in the Nigerian oil and gas sector in return for corruptly offering and giving millions of dollars’ worth of gifts and benefits” to Alison-Madueke. Aluko and Omokore are said to have “used a series of shell companies and layered financial transactions to conceal the nature, location, source, and/or ownership of the proceeds of the unlawful conduct”.

Working for ‘the Madam’
The civil complaint alleges how over three months in 2011 – while Aluko and Omokore were negotiating a $1.5bn oil deal with Alison-Madueke (that she subsequently awarded them) – the oil tycoons spent millions of pounds acquiring luxury property in and around London for the oil minister.

In January 2011 Omokore bought a £3.3m mansion in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, through Seychelles company Miranda International Ltd. Aluko took charge of refurbishments and was careful to do so discreetly; contractors on the site were only told they were working for “the Madam”.

Two months later, Aluko bought a £1.7m mews property in Chester Close North, a cul-de-sac by Regent’s Park, London, through BVI company Mortlake Investments Ltd, and again set out on a lavish refurbishment, installing an elevator and stone flooring (this property was later sold, but not before Aluko furnished it with exercise machines worth £11,000 from Harrods).

‘Fantastically corrupt’
Four days later, on 28 March 2011, Aluko bought a £2.8m flat in Harley House, a swanky Edwardian apartment block near Madame Tussauds, using another Seychelles company, Rosewood Investments Ltd. Again, the flat was decked out to the oil minister’s tastes; Aluko emailed her the plans. The following day, Aluko bought a fourth property for her, a £3.7m pad in Park View, an apartment block also by Regent’s Park, through Colinwood Ltd, yet another Seychelles company. The property was part-financed with a loan from the UK branch of First Bank Nigeria and, again, was lavishly refurbished. All her properties were frozen last September by the Crown Prosecution Service under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

“Fantastically corrupt” was how David Cameron described Nigeria at the Anti-Corruption Summit in London last year, prompting a retort from Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari that Britain ought to do more to ensure the “return of assets” stolen from his country by corrupt officials. As the last Eye noted, government plans to force owners of properties acquired through overseas companies to declare who they are on a public register are moving at snail’s pace. The case of Alison-Madueke illustrates that until these and other measures are implemented, London’s property market will remain the home of the world’s dubious wealth.

More top stories in the latest issue:

A leaky reactor needing structural repair means the navy’s fleet of nuclear-powered subs which carry Trident missiles is permanently under strength.

Diplomats in Brussels are already horse-trading over the spoils as 21 countries bid to wrest EU banking and medicines agencies from London, post-Brexit.

Northants police are criticised for their treatment of disabled people, after serious complaints about the way officers dealt with two young autistic men.

Families of victims of the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings will challenge a coroner’s decision to exclude vital evidence from the long-overdue inquest.

Fareham council’s connivance in allowing National Grid to build a monster electricity ‘converter station’ near housing may come back to bite it.

Why health minister Philip Dunne doesn’t dare reveal details of his planned sale of the NHS’s in-house nursing agency, NHS Professionals.

Avon’s fire and rescue leadership collapses into chaos after a report exposes bullying, cover-ups and dodgy financial decisions at Avon Fire Authority.

The Stoll Foundation in west London, which supports disabled veterans, faces tough questions after two men are found dead in their flats in the past year.

The Montessori primary school in Hampshire that has managed to lose two headteachers and most of its pupils in just a year

To read all these stories in full, get the latest edition of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 19th September 2017.
More From This Issue
More From Private Eye
Only In The Magazine
Private Eye Issue 1450

ONLY £1.80

19th September 2017
In This Issue private eye
Why Diana Would Have Voted for Brexit: Daily Express Exclusive… Electricity Users Stunned by Huge Rise in Price of British Gas Executive… Maduro Silent on Corbyn’s Stifling of Internal Labour Party Dissent… ‘Staffing Levels Now Adequate’ as Inmates Take Over Day-to-Day Running of Jail… BBC Defends Entirely Different Cooking Show, ‘Strictly Come Baking’… Mayfly Lands White House Communications Job… Donald Trump’s Diary, as tweeted to Craig Brown

And also...

- Mail v Sun: Fleet Street bidding war over Charlie Gard
- Nepotism latest: MPs who still employ family members

For all these stories you can buy the magazine or subscribe here and get delivery direct to your home every fortnight.

Private Eye Issue 1449