For Ibadan, Oyo State-born Kase Lukman Lawal, his journey to the USA dates back to the time he spent to obtain his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Texas Southern University in 1976, after which he had his MBA from Prairie View A&M University, also in Texas, in 1978. He is the chairman and chief executive officer of CAMAC International Corporation, chairman and chief executive officer of CAMAC Energy Inc, and chairman of Allied Energy Corporation in Houston, Texas; and Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, CAMAC HOLDINGS; vice chairman, Port of Houston Authority Commission. He also serves as a member of the board of directors and a significant shareholder in Unity National Bank, the only federally insured and licensed African-American-owned bank in Texas.
His influence in the USA has seen him befriending politicians both of Democratic and Republican parties and this has earned him recognition as he was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. He has however been linked to a series of fraud and illegal transactions that have to do with Africa.
He was at a time being mentioned in a spectacular fraud-related matter in the oil business in Nigeria, where he and others allegedly conspired to "steal" an oil block and pump millions of barrels of oil from it. Despite protracted legal proceedings (though he was never prosecuted and he has consistently denied the allegations), information revealed he was at a time on the list of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) wanted Nigerians and this much was confirmed by the then Attorney-General, Mr. Michael Andoakaa at a function back then.
In 2003 the Mail & Guardian revealed how Lawal, after becoming close to former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, benefited from "what appears to be a fraud on the Nigerian and South African public". It was reported that CAMAC, a company owned by Kase Lawal, had in that deal set up a subsidiary in South Africa, with the name "South African Oil Company". This he was said to have done in association with a group of individuals connected to the ANC, South Africa’s leading and ruling political party.
According to the report, Mbeki was said to have written to his then-counterpart in Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, chipping in good words about the company and supporting the company's request for "a long-term crude oil contract on behalf of the Republic of South Africa". This it was said helped the company get substantial oil allocations at discounted "government-to-government" rates from Nigeria. The report explained further that the oil was however diverted as it was never taken to South Africa, with the proceed paid into an account opened in the name of South African Oil Company at a bank in the Cayman Islands, where a mystery co-owner shared the proceeds with Kase Lawal-owned CAMAC.
The statement read further that after the tenure of Thabo Mbeki, the government of Jacob Zuma, who was the immediate deputy president to Mbeki, quizzed him about the oil deal in a parliamentary debate and his answer portrayed him as not having any knowledge of the deal, whereas questioning on the fraud directed towards Lawal had his lawyer deny any impropriety by the company, claiming the allocations were never meant for South Africa.
Kase and his CAMAC were again in the news over illegal transaction, this time in gold. In December 2010, Dikembe Mutombo, a Congolese basketball hero formerly with the Houston Rockets, was said to have introduced Lawal to the opportunity to buy 475kg of gold supposedly held in Kenya, and Lawal, we gathered, involved diamond trader Carlos St Mary to help execute the gold deal with an agreement that Kase, Mutombo and St. Mary would split the estimated $10-million profit after the deal had been finalised.
It however turned out later that the gold was actually being bought from a DRC Congo warlord who had been banned by the UN. The deal, it was gathered, cost Kase Lawal a sum to the tune of about $30 million which he could not recover as the deal was stopped by the ban decreed by President Joseph Kabila on all precious mineral exports from the eastern DRC, in an attempt to stop the financing of arms smuggling and destabilisation in the country.
While Kase Lukman Lawal is enjoying the life of affluence in the USA, another Nigerian, Kola Aluko, is living in similar fashion in the United Kingdom (UK). Born Kolawole Aluko in Lagos in 1969, he’s one of nine siblings of a pharmacist mother while his father, Chief Akanni Aluko (Chairman Island Club and High Chief in Ilesa, Osun State, Nigeria) is a geologist. Kola Aluko attended Igbogbi College in Lagos. He was ranked by Forbes as one of the top 40 richest Africans.
Kola Aluko had worked in different industries, from pharmaceutical companies to car companies, before settling for the oil industry some years back. He co-founded Besse Oil, a pioneering oil trading company in Nigeria, in 1995. Besse Oil, one of the first to obtain a credit line with major international banks, traded crude oil and fuel oil, as well as being a major importer of gasoline. Some six years later, in 2001, Aluko founded Fossil Resources, an indigenous downstream oil and gas company, where he held the role of CEO.
He, in 2004, formed Exoro Energy International, becoming CEO and moved into Exploration and Production. Exoro Energy partnered with a division of Weatherford, to showcase its exploration and production technology. In 2007, the division of Weatherford was bought out and merged with Exoro Energy to form an independent company, Seven Energy. Aluko was a Director of Seven Energy from 2007 until his departure in 2011.
Seven Energy is an indigenous Nigerian oil and gas exploration, development, production and distribution company, and it is run by the trio of Kola Aluko, Phillip Ihenacho and Jide Omokore. It was after this that Aluko, together with a team of Nigerian and international E&P executives, co-founded Atlantic Energy, a private upstream oil and gas company, with an increased focus on under-developed producing fields in Nigeria. In partnership with the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), Atlantic Energy focuses mainly on Niger Delta assets, contracted and executed under Strategic Alliance Agreements (SAAs) with the NPDC.
He diversified into the aviation industry in 2010, becoming a member of the Vistajet advisory board, assisting with the West-African expansion of the Swiss-based luxury aviation company. His supposed hard work however come under public scrutiny when he decided to squander $1.5 million on bottles of champagne at the 39th birthday party of Hollywood star, Leo De Caprio in the US sometime in 2013. He was said to have attended the event in company of controversial super model, Naomi Campbell, whom he was said to have impressed with the reckless spending at the party that had Kanye West, who performed 10 songs, present together with his wife, Kim Kardashian, who sang along all through.
Sources believed the spending must have been at the instance of Naomi Campbell, whose ex-boyfriend of five years, Russian billionaire Vladimir Doronin ,was present amongst other dignitaries like the producer of The Wolf of Wall Street, Joey McFarland and Texas businessman Nate Paul, Ron Burkle, Jho Low and Vivi Nevo.
This seems to have further added fuel to the embers of fire generated by the allegation of fraud labeled against him in the Nigerian oil industry as one of the associates of the Petroleum Minister Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who had allegedly been using the billionaire to ship money abroad. Initially accused of colluding with the Minister to defraud Nigeria of several billions through all sorts of shady deals, Aluko and some others were in 2010 said to be involved in the scandalous take-over of the oil mining licenses (OMLs) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Kola Aluko was said to have through his company, Septa Energy, a subsidiary of Seven Energy and some other associates of his in the questionable deal, were awarded without proper process of bidding the deal when Shell divested its operatorship in the OMLs. A situation that legally reverted the ownership to the NNPC which would in turn manage the oil assets on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria. The operatorship was said to have been reverted to the NNPC, which had also transferred the operatorship to its exploration subsidiary, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).
Subsequently, the operatorships of the seven blocks were handed over to a consortium of local companies some of which are: Septa Energy, a subsidiary of Seven Energy, a company he has interest in, which got oil mining licences for some blocks and Atlantic Energy, a private upstream oil and gas company that Aluko owns 50 per cent stake in was awarded four (4) oil blocs, numbers 26, 30, 34, and 42, with a combined output of about 108,000bpd. Interestingly the companies were to receive crude oil allocation of over 40,000 barrels per day as “loan repayment”.
Though he is alleged to have been from time to time soiling his hands with fraud in the lucrative oil sector, he was alleged to have fallen into crisis with the Petroleum Minister on an issue that had to do with breach of trust. Unconfirmed sources alleged that he made away with a staggering $4b, for a deal transaction concluded together with his associates that allegedly helps the Minister move money abroad. Sources revealed that it became disturbing when after the deal, Aluko moved to Switzerland where he’s also a citizen, with none of his associates getting to hear anything from him.
His absence was said to have spurred panic when news of his new acquisition started filtering to the ears of his partners: he was said to have bought a £150 million Galactica Star Yacht, which he acquired in June 2013. Galactica Star is a one-of-its-kind custom-built super yacht. The 65-metre-long play boat is the newest and largest Heesen yacht ever built. It was also that period that he started the acquisition of luxury property in very expensive and exclusive neighbourhoods like New York, Beverly Hills, London, Las Vegas, Dubai, Paris, Monaco and Miami.
It got to a stage he was said to have been declared wanted by the Interpol and other security agencies in Nigeria. Though most of these allegations have been denied by Kola Aluko, it is believed that there must really be something fishy about the wealth of these two Nigerian billionaires in diaspora.