For the past few weeks, much of the New York City media has been focused on the luxury high-rise apartment complex known as One57, which is set to be the scene for the biggest residential real-estate foreclosure in the city’s long and storied history. Speculation was rampant about who actually owned the 79th-floor penthouse condo, worth an estimated $50.9 million, after Luxembourg’s Banque Havilland announced that it was foreclosing on the property for non-payment of a mortgage and planning on putting it up for sale in the next month or so.
That speculation is now over as the owner has since been revealed as Nigerian energy tycoon Kolawole ‘Kola’ Aluko, who originally bought the 6,240-square-foot, four-bedroom condo for $51 million back in 2014. In order to finance the purchase, Aluko took out a $35.3 million mortgage, which was due to be paid off this past autumn. Unfortunately for him, the businessman has missed several payments, which has led to the bank foreclosing on the property amid speculation that it was used for money laundering. Along with not paying off his mortgage, media reports also state that the Nigerian owes at least $25,000 in taxes and has also not been paying the required maintenance fees.
Who is Kolawole Aluko?
The recent foreclosure of the One57 penthouse isn’t the first time that Kola Aluko has made headlines. The head of Nigerian oil company Atlantic Energy, Aluko has been under investigation by the Nigerian and European authorities for well over a year for crimes related to money laundering and high fraud. This investigation is thought to be what led him to sell his Bel-Air mansion in May 2016 for $21.5 million, which represented a $3 million loss over what he originally paid for it in 2012.
In addition to the recent headlines related to these investigations, Aluko is also well-known for being close friends with numerous Hollywood celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx and Jay Z. The relationship with Jay Z and Beyonce is especially notable, as in 2015 Aluko rented the celebrity couple his yacht, Galactica Star, for a reported $900,000 per week.
Aluko’s Current Status
The Nigerian government has been trying to serve Aluko with court papers for well over a year, but as of yet have been unable to locate him. He is also wanted by the British and European Union authorities.
More recently, the government has sought to freeze all of his assets, including the One57 penthouse, but without success. The reasons stem from an investigation into a scheme involving Aluko that the government claims tried to defraud them of oil profits and, along with the participation of another businessman, resulted in the loss of approximately $1.7 billion.
Most reports speculate that Aluko is currently somewhere hiding out on his yacht, but it has yet to be located. Aluko himself was last seen in Hong Kong, and the yacht was last registered in the Bahamas in early May. There is some speculation that the 213-foot yacht may currently be in Turkey, but for now, the man and the yacht are still out of reach.
Nonetheless, it seems that the search for Galactica Star is set to intensify. When obtaining the loan from Banque Havilland, Aluko listed the yacht as collateral and the bank has stated that it is its intent to collect everything necessary to pay off the remaining mortgage.