THE Chairman and Founder, Air Peace, Allen Onyeama and one other has been charged with bank fraud and money laundering for moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents on purchase of aeroplanes.
Onyeama who was recommended by the Nigeria House of Representatives for a National Award for ensuring the evacuation of Nigerians in South Africa following the Xenophobic attacks on Citizens of Nigeria and other African Nationals has been accused of bank fraud by the United States Department of Justice.
In a Press Statement, the US Department of Justice said along with Onyeama, the airline’s Chief of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, has also been charged with bank fraud and committing aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.
According to the statement, United States Attorney of Georgia Northern District, Byung J. Pak said Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud and that the US will diligently protect the integrity its banking system from being corrupted by criminals, even when they disguise themselves in a cloak of international business.
“Allen Ifechukwu Athan Onyema, 56, of Lagos, Nigeria, and Ejiroghene Eghagha, 37, of Lagos, Nigeria, 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,” the statement read
Pak said that 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.
He added that Onyema after establishing in years following the founding of Air Peace, he travelled to the United States and purchased multiple aeroplanes for the airline.
He noted that over $3 million of the funds used to purchase the aircraft allegedly came from bank accounts for Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, International Centre for Non-Violence and Peace Development, All-Time Peace Media Communications Limited, and Every Child Limited.
Pak said 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. 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,” the statement read.
The US Department of justice, however, added that members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.