Oh dear. Times are tough for the world’s money launderers. There’s that whole Panama Papers fiasco that’s already toppled governments. Switzerland (!!) is leading the crusade against banking fraud. Even traditional money laundering vehicle stalwarts like real estate and art are no longer secure. Transparency is coming even to the darkest, most shadowy corners of the globe. Or so it would seem.
Take Kola Aluko, ostensibly a billionaire Nigerian oil magnate who’s long been rumored to be little more than a trumped-up pawn and/or agent of Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria’s legally-embattled former oil minister and the first female President of OPEC. Ms. Alison-Madueke has been openly accused of siphoning off the equivalent of $6 billion USD from Nigeria’s treasury, after which she (allegedly) wove a complex web made up of shady associates and numerous shell companies. These associates sought to launder her stolen billions in a variety of vehicles worldwide.
Perhaps the most (in)famous of her “associates” is Mr. Aluko, who seems to have been plucked from relative obscurity by Ms. Alison-Madueke and anointed a billionaire sometime in 2010 or 2011. Not long after, he began a global spending spree of epic proportions, buying palatial homes and apartments in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Manhattan, and London. Jets, exotic cars, jewels, artwork, etc. Even prowling around with our gurl Naomi Campbell for a spell.
Sadly, all things must come to an end and after a few years of living on top of the proverbial hog, Mr. Aluko’s billionaire days seem behind him. Ms. Diezani-Madueke has been arrested in London, and Mr. Aluko himself is facing the indignity of a bankruptcy suit. He’s reportedly been holed up in his Swiss villa for the past year, while quietly and remotely disposing of his ill-gotten gains back in the States.
Yolanda has already told y’all about the Beverly Hills house Mr. Aluko had leased to Ariana Grande and sold at a big loss to real estate investor Paul Daneshrad. And we’ve also told you about the Montecito estate he sold at another big loss to Goopy actress Gwyneth Paltrow. But now comes the biggest wound so far.
It was our pals at the Los Angeles Times who first revealed, and property records clearly confirm, that Mr. Aluko has dumped his uber-modern palace in Bel Air in a top-secret, off-market deal. Just as Yolanda predicted. The house actually transferred in late April (2016) for $21,565,000. That’s a lot of money, of course, but it’s a scream-inducing $2,935,000 less than the $24,500,000 Mr. Aluko originally paid for the property four years ago.
We’ve held off on writing about this place for a solid month because Yolanda wanted to perform her due diligence and sort out who the buyer is. For the record: the deed reveals the house was acquired by a mysterious corporation calling itself “Sarbonne Estate Inc.”
Well, kids, we apologize but as of yet we haven’t been able to positively identify the shadowy figure behind this corporate front. However, Yolanda strongly suspects it may be Swiss private aviation entrepreneur Thomas Flohr, a guy who happens to own another massive estate on the very same swanky street in Bel Air. He also happens to have been a business partner of Mr. Aluko, back in our boy’s high-flying “billionaire” salad days. And really, wouldn’t it make sense for Mr. Aluko to sell the house quietly and off-market to someone he knows? Of course it would.
For the record, Mr. Flohr paid $23,500,000 for his “other” Bel Air compound back in 2013. He shares the property with his jet-set adult daughter Nina, whenever she is in town. Perhaps having a second home on the same street means one for him, one for her?
But kids, take all this with a grain of salt right now. Like we said, we can’t positively confirm it was Mr. Flohr who acquired the mansion from Mr. Aluko And we probably won’t be able to prove it for some time.
Wanna know why? Because the house is all torn up and vacant right now. It’s going to be months (at least) before the mysterious new owner (who may or may not be Mr. Flohr) can finally move in.
Here’s how the place looks today. This construction was initiated by Mr. Aluko, but Yolanda has repeatedly been told by certain birdies that the work has been stalled for quite some time, perhaps due to Mr. Aluko’s ongoing legal and/or financial problems. And no, we haven’t the faintest idea why he would initiate a full-scale gut renovation of this property. Keep in mind this was a brand-spankin’-new spec-mansion when Mr. Aluko bought it back in 2012.
For comparison’s sake, let’s take a wee gander at how the estate looked just four years ago, before a certain someone decided it just wasn’t good enough for him (or something).
The 13,000 square foot uber-contemporary mansion was built in 2011 by modern-minded architectural firm McClean Design for (of course) prolific spec-mansion developer Nile Niami. The “Sarbonne Residence” boasts an imposing 12-foot-high driveway gate, a “huge” circular carport area, and stairs leading to the long and slim pad’s front door on the house’s side. The unconventional orientation was necessitated by the unusually-shaped 1.04-acre hillside lot.
The living and family areas look exactly how you might expect and are connected by the long hallways and corridors. Just walking from one end of this house to the other will give you a pretty swell workout. But the good thing about the narrow layout is that it gives nearly every room picture-perfect southward city views.
And check out that fireplace. You could cremate a full-grown adult body in that fireplace! Not that you should, but you know. You could.
The upstairs gym is spare and perhaps a bit smaller than Yolanda would have anticipated, but it does have a nice view. Trendy dark wood flooring adorns most rooms, while the master bath gets terrazzo and marble.
The master suite and indoor and outdoor lounges sport head-on views of Century City. All 6 bedrooms (including the master) are on the home’s second floor, while at least a couple of the 8 bathrooms are — thankfully — located downstairs.
The kitchen sports Italian lighting fixtures and and a massive, disappearing wall of glass.
The pool is rather unnervingly perched on the very edge of the cliff. But we do appreciate the protective glass wall on the spa’s edge, flimsy attempt though it may be to hinder drunken revelry from going too far.
So far, poor Mr. Aluko is 0 for 3 on his home sales. We tabulated all his sale prices up and compared them with purchase prices and it appears he’s eaten a stunning $5,260,000 total loss on these three properties alone in the past couple months.
And for those of you who are tired of hearing about this guy, sorry. But we’re not done with him yet! Property records show he still owns a significant estate in the Montecito area. We’ll discuss that on another day soon, so don’t fret. He’s also still got a couple swanky apartments in Manhattan, at least one of which was recently listed at $500,000+ loss.
Poor Mr. Aluko. That’s a lot of cash down the drain. But then again, it’s probably not quite as painful to lose money that was never really yours to begin with, right? Allegedly.