Allen Onyema, the chairman and founder of Air Peace has been charged with bank fraud and money laundering for allegedly moving more than $20 million from foreign sources through American bank accounts and using it, in part, to pay for living expenses, luxury cars and high-end shopping, according to US officials and federal court documents.
"Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud," US Attorney Byung Pak said "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." He concluded.
Reacting to the allegations, Onyema said he is "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," Onyema said. "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 LC regime and all were used for the same purpose.
"The American companies that received the funds are still in business," he pointed. "I never took a penny from any US bank or Nigerian bank. I am willing to defend my innocence in the US courts."
Onyema faces 27 counts of money laundering, three counts of bank fraud, three counts of credit application fraud and two conspiracy charges.
A statement from the federal prosecutor says Onyema’s US accounts were 'alleged fronts for his scam'. About a decade ago, Onyema, started traveling frequently to Atlanta, where he opened personal and business bank accounts, the statement says.
Between 2010 and 2018, about $45 million "was allegedly transferred into his Atlanta-based accounts from foreign sources," they said. This sum included "hundreds of thousands of dollars transferred directly" from accounts for four organizations Onyema founded to promote peace in his home country to a personal bank account he shared with his wife, according to an indictment filed Tuesday, November 19.