The US Department of Justice is set to confiscate a $22-million mansion Nigerian businessman, Kola Aluko sold to a friend and jet entrepreneur, Thomas Flohr in 2016.
The 15,000-square-foot, six-bedroom property in Bel Air, Los Angeles, California is subject to litigation between the DoJ and a company, Sarbonne Estate Inc. (SEI) which Flohr owns.
Flohr is the Swiss founder and chairman of VistaJet Group Holding Ltd.
Aluko has been under investigation by the DoJ for involvement in bribery and money laundering schemes in Nigeria totalling $1.5 billion.
Flohr, who is a friend and business associate of Aluko, has not been accused of taking part in the schemes.
In a civil lawsuit filed in July, the DoJ said that the mansion which SEI acquired in April 2016 from Kola Aluko was a proceed of crime.
The DoJ said that as a “close business associate” of the Nigerian businessman, Flohr should have known that the property would be subject to forfeiture and could not claim not to have seen news reports that the seller was being investigated for money laundering.
But in its defence, SEI filed court papers claiming it knew Aluko as a man of legitimate means before acquiring the property.
Represented by a law firm, Ashcroft Sutton Reyes LLC, SEI told the District Court in Houston, Texas on Wednesday that the court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the property in Los Angeles, California, and accused the DoJ of attempting to seize the mansion without proving “any connection to criminal activity”.