Court Adjourns FG’s Suit Against Omokore, Aluko over $1.7bn Debt to Sept 29

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Davidson Iriekpen

Due to annual court recess, the Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed September 29 to decide whether or not to stay further proceeding in a suit filed by the federal government against Olajide Omokore and Kolawole Aluko, seeking an order to recover the sum of $1,762,338,184.40 billion from both men.

The federal government, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Limited (NPDC) and Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had dragged the two businessmen and their companies – Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Nigeria Limited (AEDC) and Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited (AEBD) – seeking an order restraining them from dissipating all their known assets directly or indirectly.

The government had also prayed the court to restrain the defendants and their agents, and however called within and outside Nigeria from giving instructions, demanding, accepting or receiving payment from 19 commercial banks in Nigeria, eight offshore banks, and eight other companies listed before the court.

The trial judge, Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo, last year, had issued an order restraining the defendants and their agents from demanding, receiving, transacting, mortgaging or whatsoever dealing in any manner with the assets of the defendants in banks, houses, land and shares in Nigeria and others located outside Nigeria, while the Nigerian banks listed in the motion papers were ordered to, within seven days, sequestrate all money and negotiable instruments standing to the credit of the defendants in the sum of $1,762,338,184.40, and keep same in an interest-yielding account in the name of the Chief Registrar of the court as trustee of same, pending the determination of the motion on notice.

The court also ordered that the order of the court should be served on the affected parties by way of advertisement in newspapers circulating within and outside Nigeria.
Apart from the pending application filed before the court by Omokore and Aluko urging the court to stay proceedings on the suit on the grounds that they have filed an appeal against the ruling of the court, there is another pending application filed by a company, Virtual Properties and Investment Limited, as an intervener.

The company is urging the court to discharge or vary its order, as it relates to Marion Apartments on the grounds that the property (Marion Apartments) located at Block 8 Plots 4&5 Onikoyi Estate, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, consists of 56 apartments owned and developed by the intervener by virtue of two separate deeds of sublease.
The intervener also claimed that it conveyed its interest in 13 out the 56 apartments to Realblanc Energy Engineering Limited, an affiliate company of the defendants.

The intervener still retains ownership of the 13 out of the 56 apartments in Marion Apartments, therefore the order of the court is prejudicial to its interest and interferes with its right of ownership over these flats.
The federal government in an affidavit attached to the suit and sworn to by a legal practitioner Oginni Isaac Kehinde of the Federal Ministry of Justice Abuja, had averred that Omokore, Aluko and their two companies were indebted to the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the tune of $1,762,338,284.40 on account of crude oil lifting under the Strategic Alliance Agreements (SAA) between them and the federal government.

Kehinde averred that the defendants, by virtue of the agreement, were granted a licence to lift crude oil and other associated products in Nigeria for sale and for parties to share the profits under agreed terms.

The defendants indeed lifted and sold the crude oil and have been paid but bluntly and deliberately refused to pay the federal government, rather they unlawfully diverted and converted the profits share due to the federal government in the sum of $1,762,338,184.40 to their private use, he averred.

The deponent listed the particulars of diversion as follows: Several vehicles with a combined value of over N800 million were purchased by the defendants and donated to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) through its former acting National Chairman, Prince Secondus.

Additional vehicles valued at over N130 million were purchased by the defendants and distributed to former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Maduekwe, and some other managerial staff of NPDC.
He also stated that the sums of $18,548,619.99 and N1.070 billion were paid to FBN Mortgages Limited by Kolawole Aluko as part payment for Block A consisting of 26 flats at 46 Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos purchased at a total cost of N5.21 billion.

The deponent also stated that payment of a total sum of $25,839,606. 77, and N95 million were made to Real Bank for the purpose of part financing the acquisition of AEDC and AEBD companies’ property as well as renovation of some properties.

Part of the properties included Mason Apartments situated at 6 Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos comprising 60 units of 3-bedroom apartments valued at $78 million; Marion Apartments Block 8 located at 4&5, Onikoyi Estate, Banana Island, ikoyi, Lagos consisting of 43 units of apartments valued at $76.16 million; renovation of an apartment block at 33A Cooper Road Ikoyi, Lagos at a total cost of $4,937,750; and renovation of Admiralty Towers at 8 Gerrard Road Ikoyi, Lagos.

He also stated that the defendants made additional fund transfers among others to the tune of $69,912,981.15 to several companies, namely: Mia Hotels Limited, First Motors Limited, V.I. Petrochemicals, Evergreen Reality & Management, Wiz Trade Limited, DE First Union Integrated Services and Amity Plus Limited.
Kehinde also averred that Aluko literally took residence outside the shores of Nigeria in order to facilitate the diversion of the proceeds of the crude oil lifted.

The residency abroad led to the diversion of funds into physical assets, cash in the bank and shares as at 2014 as follows: Grove End Road, London; 755 Sarbone Road, Los Angeles; 952 North Alpine Drive, Los Angeles; 815 Cima Del Mundo, Los Angeles; 807 Coma Del Mundo (Land); 1049 Fifth Avenue, New York; 1948&1952 Tolls Avenue, Santa Barbra; 157 West 57th St, New York, and 4100 Let Revenge, Dubai.

Others included residences in Nigeria: Avenue Towers, Lagos; land in Mont Tremblat, Canada; Colina D’oro Montagnola, Switzerland, while cash in bank accounts were as follows: LDT Switzerland – $25 million; Corner Bank, Lugano, Switzerland – $1 million; Deutsche Bank, Geneva – $40 million; HSBC London – $175,000.
Aluko’s investments in shares were as follows: 75 per cent shareholding in AEDC and AEBD and 10 per cent shareholding in Seven Energy.

Other Holdings included Galactica Star (a luxury yacht); 20-year berth lease in Barcelona; watch collection; car collections (58 vehicles); and aircraft comprising a Global Express S5-GMG, Bombardier Global 6000 9H-OPE, and another Bombardier plane.

The deponent consequently urged the court, as a matter of utmost urgency and public interest, in aid of administration of justice to issue a worldwide Mareva Order restraining the defendants from dissipating all known assets directly or indirectly by the defendants, including but not limited to assets listed on the face of the motion paper filed before the court.