A United States of America magistrate court has issued a warrant of arrest against the Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace Limited, Allen Onyema, following his indictment for alleged money laundering and bank fraud in the US.
The November 19, 2019 warrant was signed by Magistrate Justin Anand of the District Court of the Northern District of Georgia, according to Premium Times, an online publication.
It authorizes U.S. Marshals Service to take Onyema into custody.
The US Department of Justice said late on Friday that Onyema was 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 based on the purchase of airplanes.
Charged with him was the airline’s Chief of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, who was indicted for bank fraud and committing aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.
It said: “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.
“Onyema is also the CEO and Chairman of Nigerian airline Air Peace, which he founded in 2013. In years following the founding of Air Peace, he 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 bank accounts for Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, International Center for Non-Violence and Peace Development, All-Time Peace Media Communications Limited, and Every Child Limited.
“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.
“However, 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, and the company that allegedly drafted the appraisals did not exist. 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 million of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts.
“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.
“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.
“The Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Commerce, and Department of Treasury are investigating this case.”
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