A lawsuit was filed late last week at the U.S justice department seeking to seize and recover about $144 million of alleged corruption proceeds from Nigeria. According to the complainant, the money was laundered through U.S. banks. Bloomberg reported that the lawsuit was brought as "part of Justice Department's Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, which seeks the forfeiture of the proceeds of foreign corruption."

How the money was laundered

According to the complainant, two Nigerian business men and others paid bribes to the former Nigerian Minister for Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke between 2011 and 2015.

The former Nigerian minister also headed Nigeria's state-owned oil company. After receiving the bribes, the minister used her influence to award contracts to companies owned by two businessmen.

The complainant also alleges that, following receipt of the illegally acquired proceeds, Diezani laundered the funds through U.S banks and bought assets such as a $50 million mansion in Manhattan and a yacht worth $80 million. The government of Nigeria also alleges that the two businessmen, Omokore and Aluko funded Diezani's lavish lifestyle. The businessmen also purchased high-end real estate in London, furniture, luxury items, and artwork for Diezani and her family members. These household items were purchased at two furniture stores in the Houston area under the direction of Diezani.

How Diezani defrauded the Nigerian government

After receiving bribes, Diezani awarded lucrative oil contracts to shell companies owned and controlled by Aluko and Omokore.

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The shell companies were required to fund the exploration and production of petroleum in eight oil and gas blocks. The two companies also received a portion of the gas and oil proceeds in exchange for the funding they gave. According to the complainant, the two companies only provided a fraction of the funds required and failed to pay $120 million in entry fees. The companies also received and sold more than $1.5 billion worth of crude oil through shell companies and laundered a portion of the proceeds through U.S. banks.

Statements from U.S government officials

Reuters reported that Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco stated that "the U.S is not a haven for hiding corrupt proceeds." He also said that "the U.S. justice department is committed to working with law enforcers from other countries to trace and recover proceeds of corruption." Assistant Director Vale stated that "competitor companies are always at a disadvantage when business executives engage in corruption to receive lucrative contracts." He also said that "local and international law enforcers are committed to pursuing those attempting to advance their enterprises by being corrupt."