AIR Peace chairman Allen Onyema has denied US fraud allegations against him indicting him for money laundering claiming that all transfers he made to the US were done through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Yesterday, the US Department of Justice posted allegations on its website that Mr Onyema was guilty of laundering money between Nigeria and the US. It added that Air Peace’s head of administration and finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, has also been charged with bank fraud and committing aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.
Mr Onyema, who recently received plaudits for flying stranded Nigerians home from South Africa in the face of xenophobic attacks, was charged with bank fraud and money laundering for moving more than $20m from Nigeria through US bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes. However, he has dismissed the charges, saying all monies transferred to the US went through the CBN, adding that the allegations were false and were in no way in line with his character as a person and as a business man
According to Mr Onyema, he has never conducted business with any illegality, stressing that his only aim had been to build Nigeria and improve the wellbeing of its people. He added that his lawyers were on the allegations and he was ready to defend himself in any US court to prove his innocence.
Mr Onyema said: “As the press statement clearly stated, these are indictment that only contains 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 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 and I am willing to defend my innocence in the US courts.”
US attorney Byung Pak, had said: “Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud. We will diligently protect the integrity of our banking system from being corrupted by criminals, even when they disguise themselves in a cloak of international business.”
Robert Murphy, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Atlanta field division, added: “Allen Onyema’s status as a wealthy businessman turned out to be a fraud. He corrupted the US banking system but his trail of deceit and trickery came to a skidding halt and the DEA would like to thank the many law enforcement partners and the subsequent prosecution by the US attorney’s office who aided in making this investigation a success.”