The United States DOJ (Department of Justice) said that it has charged the founder, CEO, and Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema formally for money laundering and bank fraud. Ejiroghene Eghagha, the Chief of Finance and Administration of the airline, has also been charged along with Onyema for the same reason.
The DOJ, in a statement, accused both of them of transferring an amount larger than $20mn from Nigeria through bank accounts of the United States using forged documents related to the acquisition of an aircraft. Moreover, Eghagha has been further charged for committing identity theft and bank fraud associated with the plan.
According to Robert Hammer, acting Special Agent in Charge, Onyema purchased various assets that looked innocent and were worth millions of dollars. Hammer added that he is pleased to be a member of an organization that works against the people who try to make profits from the financial systems of the country.
At the beginning of the year 2010, Onyema started visiting Atlanta more frequently. During these trips to Atlanta, he opened numerous business and personal bank accounts. Almost $44.9mn was transferred into his bank accounts based in Atlanta via some foreign sources between the years 2010 and 2018.
After the Nigerian airline Air Peace was established in the year 2013; Onyema went to the U.S and purchased numerous aircraft for the air service. However, about $3mn of the reserve used for purchasing the aircraft came from the bank accounts operated by many institutions that were pro-peace in nature. In fact, Onyema was the chairman and the founder of some of these institutions, namely the International Center for Non-Violence and Peace Development, Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, Every Child Limited, and the All-Time Peace Media Communications Limited.
The DOJ claimed that at the beginning of May 2016, Eghagha and Onyema both allegedly used an array of trading letters of acknowledgment to secure transfer of an amount exceeding $20mn. The money was transferred into the bank accounts based in Atlanta which were under the control of Onyema. The credential letters appeared to finance the purchase of many Air Peace aircraft such as B737-300s MSN 28560, 28562, 28660, 28561 and 27910 and B737-500 MSN 28721. The letters were also supported by official papers like agreements of the purchase made, assessments confirming that some aircraft were purchased from Springfield Aviation Company LLC for Air Peace as well as sales bill.