Allegation is false – Onyema
The United States Department of Justice had charged the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace , Mr . Allen Onyema , with bank fraud and money laundering for moving more than $20m from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes .
The American government in a statement said the airline’ s Chief of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha , has also been charged with bank fraud and “aggravated identity theft ” in connection with the scheme.
US Attorney Byung Pak , was quoted to have said “Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud.
“We will diligently protect the integrity of our banking system from being corrupted by criminals , even when they disguise themselves in a cloak of international business , ” he added .
According to Pak , the indictment , and other information presented in court , beginning in 2010 , Onyema began travelling frequently to Atlanta , where he opened several personal and business bank accounts. Between 2010 and 2018 , over $44 . 9m was allegedly transferred into his Atlanta -based accounts from foreign sources.
the statement reads in part, “Beginning in approximately May 2016 , Onyema, together with Eghagha , allegedly used a series of export letters of credit to cause banks to transfer more than $ 20 m into Atlanta – based bank accounts controlled by Onyema .
“The letters of credit were purportedly to fund the purchase of five separate Boeing 737 passenger planes by Air Peace . The letters were supported by documents such as purchase agreements , bills of sale , and appraisals proving that Air Peace was purchasing the aircraft from Springfield Aviation Company LLC, a business registered in Georgia.”
It stated that , however , the supporting documents were fake as Springfield Aviation Company LLC, which is owned by Onyema and managed by a person with no connection to the aviation business , never owned the aircraft , and the company that allegedly drafted the appraisals did not exist .
“ Eghagha allegedly participated in this scheme as well, directing the Springfield Aviation manager to sign and send false documents to banks and even using the manager ’ s identity to further the fraud.
“ After Onyema received the money in the United States , he allegedly laundered over $ 16 m of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts, ” it added .
The Chairman and CEO of Air Peace has however denied the allegation, describing it as false, saying it has “no way in line with my character as a person and as a business man whose only aim has been to build Nigeria and improve wellbeing.”
He said he “has never laundered any money whatsoever as every aircraft bought was transacted through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“As the press statement clearly stated, these are indictment that only contains charges. I am innocent of all charges and the US government will find NO dirt on me because I have never conducted business with any illegalities.
“Be rest assured that I also have my lawyers on this and these mere allegations will be refuted.
“I never laundered money in my life, neither have I committed bank fraud anywhere in the world. Every Kobo I transferred to the US for aircraft purchase went through the Central Bank of Nigeria LC regime and all were used for the same purpose. The American companies that received the funds are still in business. I never took a penny from any US bank or Nigerian bank. I am willing to defend my innocence in the US courts,” he added