SWITZERLAND, NOVEMBER 23 – Allen Onyema, the founder and chairman of Nigerian airline, Air Peace has denied allegations of bank and money laundering levelled against him by the United State government.
Onyema has that all the allegations “are false and are in no way in line with my character as a person and as a business man.”
In a statement released by the United States Justice Department on its website, the United States government charged the airline boss with an alleged $20 million fraud and money laundering.
According to the indictment, Mr Onyema allegedly moved the funds from Nigeria through U.S. bank accounts using falsified documents in the purchase of airplanes. Charged alongside Mr Onyema is the airline’s chief of administration and finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, who was indicted for bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
In a bid to expand its regional and local operations, in September 2018, Air Peace placed an order for 10 Boeing 737 Max 8 and earlier this year the airline purchased 10 brand new Embraer 195-E2 planes from Brazil in a deal said to be worth $212.6 million.
According to U.S. prosecutors, in 2010, Mr Onyema opened several bank accounts in the U.S. and moved over $44.9 million into the accounts domiciled at Atlanta. In May 2016, Mr Onyema alongside Mr Eghagha, prosecutors said, allegedly used a series of export letters of credit to transfer more than $20 million into the bank accounts. The letters were used to fund the purchase of five Boeing 737 passenger planes.
Prosecutors, however, said the letters were accompanied by fake supporting 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.
Allen Onyeama has said all the money transfer for the purchase of aircraft passed through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He said his lawyers are working on the allegations which would be refuted.
A press statement released by the airline boss reads: “Thank you for reaching out to me. 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 business man 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.”
Also part of the indictment from the US Department of Justice reads:
” 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.”