Nigeria: Alleged Fraud - Air Peace Boss May Lose Over U.S.$14 Million Cash

(file photo)
27 November 2019

The Chairman of Air Peace, a private Nigerian airline, Allen Onyema could loss up to $14million in cash if convicted by a United States court where charges of fraud have been brought against him.

The sums which could be forfeited to the United States government are in three separate bank accounts in the US and Canada.

The United States of America (USA) had on November 19, 2019 filed a 36-count criminal charge against Onyema and one Ejiroghene Eghagha, a director of financial in Air Peace Limited.

In the charge with number: 1: 19-CR-464 filed before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division, the defendants were accused of committing bank fraud as well as defrauding financial institutions of deposit, which were insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

In count one of the charge, the defendants were accused of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, while in counts two to four, they were accused of bank fraud.

While they were also accused in counts five to eight of conspiracy and credit application fraud, in counts nine to 35, they were charged with money laundering.

According to the charge, Onyema had between 2013 and 2014 used multiple foreign bank accounts including Nigerian bank accounts to purchase airplanes for the Airpeace fleet.

The funds were said to have come from accounts linked to Onyema, which includes; All-Time Peace Media Communication, Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, Every Child Limited and International Center for Non-Violence.

A sum of over $3m was said to have been used from the four accounts in purchase of the aircraft.

The charge also stated that between 2013 and 2016, from the above accounts more than$3.8million was transferred into bank accounts in the USA into a combination of escrow, logistical and personal accounts.

The acts are said to be contrary to the laws of the USA and punishable upon conviction.

"Upon conviction of one or more of the offences alleged in counts one through five, the defendants shall forfeit to the US pursuant to title 18, United States code, section 981(a)(1)(c) and title 28 United States code, section 2461(c) any property real or personal that constitute or is derived from proceeds traceable to such offences including but not limited to the following:

(A) Money Judgment: A sum of money in United States currency, representing amount of proceeds obtained as a result of offences allegedly in indictment.

(B) Bank funds

(1)$4,017,852.51 in funds seized from JP Morgan Chase Bank account in the name of Springfield Aviation Company, LLC

(2)$4,593,842.05 in funds held in Bank of Montreal Canada Account held in the name of Springfield Aviation Inc

(3)$5,634,842.04 in funds held in Bank of Montreal Canada, held in the name of Bluestream Aero Services, Inc.

On the grounds that the described forfeit able property as a result of any act of omission of the defendant cannot be located, transferred, sold, deposited with a third party or beyond the jurisdiction of the court, the United States law empowers the court to seek forfeiture of any other property of the defendant that is up to the value of the forfeit able property.

Meanwhile, a human rights activist Johnmary Jideobi, has approached the Federal High Court, Abuja to restrain the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) from extraditing Onyema to the US for trial over alleged fraud.

The suit was sequel to the request of the American government to have Onyema tried in the US.

He also requested for an order of the court restraining any agency of government with prosecutorial powers as represented by AGF either by themselves, their servants, privies, assigns or any other person or authority acting under any concerts from attempting to use or seeking to harass, threaten, arrest or inviting or arresting Onyema in relations to Civil aviation contract he entered with American authorities through his companies.

The fundamental human rights enforcement suit against AGF was filed by the human rights activist cum layer as a Concerned Nigerian Citizen.

In the suit with Reference No.: FHC/ABJ/CS/1446/2019, the activist also sought the court order barring government, its agencies, servants of privies from giving effect to any extradition request from any country of the world especially the United States of America anchored on any indictment or charges reflecting in substance or similar fact as contained in the US extradition request against Onyema.

The court was also urged to make any other order or orders as circumstances in his situation may warrant.

In a 6-paragraph affidavit in support of the suit, the applicant claimed to have come from Anambra state with Onyema and that he had known him as a reputable business man in the aviation sector over the years.

The activist averred that the freedom of Onyema has become endangered in the country and likely to be curtailed in the circumstances of the alleged fraud indictment.

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