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Air Peace CEO indicted in bank fraud, money laundering

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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.

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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.

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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 .

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“ 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).

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“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

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[JUST IN] Fuel Scarcity: DSS Gives NNPC, Oil Marketers 48 Hours To Make Product Available

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The Department of State Services (DSS) has given the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited and oil marketers a 48-hour ultimatum to make Premium Motor Spirit, known as petrol, available for Nigerians.

This was disclosed on Thursday by Peter Afunanya, the Spokesman for DSS, while briefing journalists at its office in Abuja after a closed-door meeting with stakeholders in the petroleum sector.

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READ ALSO: NCC Gives Update On Status Of 3.5GHz Spectrum Auction

He stated that NNPC assured during the meeting that it has sufficient product to serve Nigerians during and after the Yuletide season.

He said the DSS would activate its operations across the country if they failed to comply with the directive.

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Afunanya also lamented the challenge of fuel scarcity, noting that it has assumed a dimension that is harmful to the security of the country.

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Group Knocks CBN Over New Withdrawal Limits, Says New Policy Can’t Work

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Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), on Wednesday, criticised the Central Bank of Nigeria over its weekly cash withdrawal limits, saying the measure cannot help the worsening depreciation of the naira.

HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement, said the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele is chasing shadows having crippled Nigeria’s economy with poor fiscal policies in his about 10-year regime at the apex bank.

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The group said rather than coming up with experimental and needless policies like the redesigning of the naira, cash withdrawal limits, amongst others, the apex bank and the Federal Government should cut down foreign loans and reduce Nigeria’s worsening external debt burden which has been said by experts to be the dominant cause of naira depreciation against the United States dollar.

HURIWA further said the daily maximum withdrawals via point of sale (PoS) terminal of N20,000 will force thousands of Nigerians who are PoS operators out of jobs, when the policy takes effect nationwide from January 9, 2023.

The group faulted the policy as bad for a country with 21.09% inflation rate, 133 million people in multidimensional poverty, and unemployment rate of over 33% meaning over 23 million employable Nigerians are jobless.

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READ ALSO: Naira Redesign: CBN Issues New Cash Withdrawal Policy

The CBN on Tuesday directed Deposit Money Banks and other financial institutions to ensure that weekly over-the-counter cash withdrawals by individuals and corporate entities do not exceed N100,000 and N500,000, respectively. The apex bank also pegged the maximum cash withdrawal per day via PoS terminals and Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) at N20,000, saying that only the N200 denomination will be loaded into the ATMs.

The CBN noted that the new policy is sequel to the launch of the redesigned N200, N500 and N1,000 notes by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 23, 2022.

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Commenting, HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “The CBN under its current governor, Godwin Emefiele has gone bananas. The apex bank can’t boost the value of the naira, it can’t remit over $550m trapped funds belonging to foreign airlines, forcing many of them to stop flight operations to the country. Manufacturers are also groaning and many dying or relocating from Nigeria because of inaccessibility to forex.

“It banned the supply of forex to Bureau de Change, among others and now, it has introduced limits for withdrawals that makes Nigeria look like a communist economy. Yet, the naira continues to plunge unprecedently against the dollar. Emefiele should be dismissed, he has exhausted his shallow experimental yet resultless policies.

“It is on record that the value of naira to dollar fell from N196.92 in June 2015 to N414.72 in June 2022, worsening Nigeria’s foreign debt burden. Under President Buhari and Emefiele, the naira depreciated by 52.52 per cent against the US dollar, even as the country’s total external debt rose from $10.32bn as of June 30, 2015, to $40.06bn as of June 30, 2022, a whopping increase of 288.18 per cent in seven years!

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READ ALSO: Peter Obi Loses Top Presidential Campaign Council Member To Death

“The next CBN governor after Emefiele’s sack should borrow the wisdom of the World Bank which advised that to achieve price stabilisation of the naira, the local currency should be allowed to respond to real pressures, and not be bottled up by the CBN.

“Emefiele’s successor should also advise the Federal Government to heed experts’ advice to move away from reliance on foreign assistance to finance developmental projects in the region as means to strengthen the naira.”

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Naira Redesign: CBN Issues New Cash Withdrawal Policy

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The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has issued a revised cash withdrawal policy, stating that cash withdrawals above N100,000 and N500,000 will henceforth attract 5 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, as a measure towards implementing the naira redesign policy.

Also, the apex bank disclosed that Automated Teller Machines, ATM will dispense N200 and below denominations only from now on.

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DAILY POST learnt this in a letter signed by CBN’s director of banking supervision, Haruna Mustafa, to all Deposit Money Banks, other financial institutions, primary mortgage banks and microfinance banks on Monday.

According to the letter referenced with the BSD/DIR/PUB/LAB/015/069, a third-party cheque above N50,000 will not be eligible for payment Over the counter, OTC, and maximum ATM withdrawal shall be N20,000 per day.

It added that the maximum cash withdrawal via the point of sale (PoS) terminal should be N20,000.

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“The maximum cash withdrawal over the counter (OTC) by individuals and corporate organizations per week shall henceforth be N100,000 and N500,000, respectively.

“Withdrawals above these limits shall attract processing fees of 5% and 10%, respectively; third-party cheques above N50,000 shall not be eligible for payment over the counter, while extant limits of N10,000,000 on clearing cheques still subsist; the maximum cash withdrawal per week via Automated Teller Machine (ATM) shall be N100,000 subject to a maximum of N20,000 cash withdrawal per day; Only denominations of N200 and below shall be loaded into the ATMs; The maximum cash withdrawal via point of sale (PoS) terminal shall be N20,000 daily and in compelling circumstances, not exceeding once a month, where cash withdrawals above the prescribed limits are required for legitimate purposes, such cash withdrawals shall not exceed N5,000,000 and 10,000,000 for individuals and corporate organizations,” the letter stated.

READ ALSO: Naira Redesign: Buhari, Emefiele Played Nigerians, Only Changed Dye Of Currency – Sowore

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The CBN had on October 26 made known its plan to redesign 200, 500 and 1000 naira denominations. It gave December 15, 2022, as the date to start circulating the new notes, while it plans to stop the usage of old naira notes from January 31, 2023.

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