Allen Ifechukwu Athan Onyema, the Chairman, CEO, and founder of Air Peace, a Nigerian airline, has denied allegations of bank fraud and money laundering and for moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes.
Air Peace’s Chief of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, 37, was also charged with bank fraud and committing aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.
This denial is in response to the breaking news that the United States Department of Justice, in a press statement released on Friday November 22, 2019, says it has indicted Air Peace CEO, Allen Onyema, in bank fraud and money laundering.
In a brief statement issued on Saturday, Mr. Allen Onyema, who described his indictment as ‘strange’, said all the allegations by the United states department of Justice, “are false and are in no way in line with my character as a person and as a businessman,” stating categorically that all the money transfer for the purchase of aircraft passed through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and adding that his lawyers are working on the allegations which would be refuted.
The statement reads in part:
“I can confirm to you that all allegations are false and are in no way in line with my character as a person and as a businessman whose only aim has been to build Nigeria and improve well-being.
“As the press statement clearly stated, these are indictments that only contain 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 declared.
Maintaining his honesty, Onyema’s lawyers further confirmed that the business man is ready to clear his name of these allegations.
“On behalf of Allen Onyema, we hereby state that he strongly denies and will vigorously defend himself against the allegations made against him by the US Attorney in Atlanta, Georgia in relation to purchase of Aircraft, Aircraft spares and Aircraft maintenance,” the statement read.
“None of the allegations involve any third party funds but relate to his funds utilized in the Airline business. There is no allegation that any Bank [in the United States, Nigeria or elsewhere], Company or individual suffered any financial or any loss whatsoever.
“The allegations are unfounded and strange to him. Allen Onyema has a track record built on honesty and integrity and will take all necessary steps to clear his good name and hard earned reputation. He looks forward to an opportunity to rebut these allegations in Court,” the statement concluded.
According to the charge by the United States Department of Justice: “Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and setup various innocent sounding multi-million dollar asset purchases which were nothing more than alleged fronts for his scam,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer.
U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak, shedding more light on the charges, as well as the indictment and other information presented in court, said: “We will diligently protect the integrity our banking system from being corrupted by criminals, even when they disguise themselves in a cloak of international business.”
Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division commented on the indictment thus: “Allen Onyema’s status as a wealthy businessman turned out to be a fraud. He corrupted the U.S. banking system, but his trail of deceit and trickery came to a skidding halt. DEA would like to thank the many law enforcement partners and the subsequent prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office who aided in making this investigation a success.”
The charge reads thus:
“Beginning in 2010, Onyema began travelling frequently to Atlanta, where he opened several personal and business bank accounts.
Between 2010 and 2018, over $44.9 million was allegedly transferred into his Atlanta-based accounts from foreign sources. In years following the founding of Air Peace, he traveled to the United States and purchased multiple airplanes for the airline. .
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 million 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. However, the supporting documents were fake.
After Onyema received the money, he allegedly laundered over $16 million of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts.
Onyema and Eghagha were indicted on November 19, 2019, on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, three counts of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit credit application fraud, and three counts of credit application fraud.
Additionally, Onyema was charged with 27 counts of money laundering, and Eghagha was charged with one count of aggravated identity theft.”