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Last Updated on April 15, 2020

Air Peace CEO charged with Money Laundering

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Allen Onyema the founder and CEO of Air Peace have been indicted for bank fraud and money laundering in the United States.

On Friday 22 November 2019, the US Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Georgia issued a press release. In the press release, Mr. Allen Onyema was charge with bank fraud and money laundering. The press release accuses Mr. Onyema of moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through several US bank accounts. He is also charge of falsifying documents on airplane purchases.

Along with Allen Onyema, the chief of administration and finance at Air Peace, Ejiroghene Eghagha has also been charged with bank fraud. Additionally, he is charge for committing aggravated identity theft. The two will appear in court to defend the charges against them.

Allen Onyema and Ejiro 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 is charged with 27 counts of money laundering.

According to the US Attorney Byung Pak, the indictment, and other information presented in court states that Allen Onyema, a Nigerian citizen and businessman, is the founder and Chairman of several organizations that claim to promote peace across Nigeria.  The organizations are the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, International Centre for Non-Violence and Peace Development, and All-Time Peace Media Communications Limited.

It states further that 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.

Air Peace CEO Indictment Details

According to the documents, in years following the founding of Air Peace, Onyema travelled to the United States and purchased multiple airplanes for the airline. However, over $3 million of the funds used to purchase the aircraft allegedly came from the bank accounts of some of the organizations he founded.

The indictment documents noted that beginning in approximately May 2016, Allen Onyema, together with Ejiro Eghagha, allegedly used a series of export letters of credit to causing banks to transfer more than $20 million into Atlanta-based bank accounts controlled by Onyema.

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“The letters of credit were 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”.

But officials, later found that the supporting documents were fake. 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. Also, the company that allegedly drafted the appraisals did not exist.  Eghagha also 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 Allen Onyema received the money in the United States, he allegedly laundered over $16 million of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts.

US stand on Money Laundering

The US Attorney Pak said:  “Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud”. Stated that the US will continue to diligently protect the integrity of their banking system and corrupted by criminals. Even when they disguise themselves in a cloak of international business.

Members of the public is inform that the indictment only contains charges.  The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges. It will then be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

The news is a significant blow to the Air Peace brand and several Nigerians are calling for the CEO to step down.

Air Peace started operations in Nigeria in 2014. It has operated domestic flights in Nigeria ever since. It started its Lagos to Accra route on February 16, 2017, making the route its first outside Nigeria and within West Africa. So,the airline has since added Abuja to Accra to its routes.

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