ECONOMIC and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) officials have confiscated the passport of Air Peace chairman Allen Onyema in response to him being charged with 27 counts of money laundering in the US.
On November 23, Mr Allen was indicted by the US Justice Department with attorney Byung Pak, revealing that he moved more than $20m from Nigeria through US bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplane. Mr Onyema has denied the charges and asked his legal team to challenge the allegations but despite this the Nigerian authorities have moved against him.
Although Mr Allen has not been arrested, it appears that under US pressure, the EFCC has started investigating him. Over the weekend, Mr Allen’s passport was seized and his movement restricted by the EFCC.
One EFCC source said: “Following his interaction with our detectives, it became imperative to restrict his movement to the country because we will need him from time to time. We have seized his passports for unfettered comprehensive investigation and so far, he has cooperated with our team.
“During our interaction, he maintained his innocence. We have, however, made progress in our preliminary investigation.”
On the likelihood of extraditing Mr Onyema to the US, the source added that for now, the Nigerian authorities are only investigating. He pointed out that the extradition process is within the purview of the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
“You should not forget that the EFCC has to investigate, establish prima facie case and arraigning the suspects in court before any extradition application can be initiated. The US government knows what to do as far as the invocation of the mutual legal assistance treaty is concerned but we are only fulfilling our own part of the collaboration with the relevant US agencies,” he added.