~ Allen Onyeama, Air Peace Chairman.
U.S. government charges Air Peace founder Onyema with $20 million fraud.
Executive Officer of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, has denied fraud allegations levelled against him by the United States government.
Mr Onyeama in a press statement on Saturday said the allegations are false and do not reflect his personality as a business owner.
United States government charged Mr Onyema with an alleged $20 million fraud and money laundering on Friday.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Mr Onyema allegedly moved the funds from Nigeria through U.S. bank accounts using falsified documents in the purchase of airplanes.
Charged alongside Mr Onyema is the airline’s chief of administration and finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, who was indicted for alleged bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
But Mr Onyema in his statement argued that he is innocent, as the indictment only contained charges.
“As the press statement clearly stated, these are indictment (sic) that only contains charges,” the statement said.
“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 LC 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. I am willing to defend my innocence in the US courts,” the AirPeace CEO stated.
In a bid to expand its regional and local operations, in September 2018, Air Peace placed an order for 10 Boeing 737 Max 8 and earlier this year the airline purchased 10 brand new Embraer 195-E2 planes from Brazil in a deal said to be worth $212.6 million.
According to U.S. prosecutors, in 2010, Mr Onyema opened several bank accounts in the U.S. and moved over $44.9 million into the accounts domiciled at Atlanta. In May 2016, Mr Onyema alongside Mr Eghagha, prosecutors said, allegedly used a series of export letters of credit to transfer more than $20 million into the bank accounts.
The letters were used to fund the purchase of five Boeing 737 passenger planes.
Prosecutors, however, said the letters were accompanied by fake supporting documents such as purchase agreements, bills of sale, and appraisals proving that Air Peace was purchasing the aircraft from Springfield Aviation Company LLC, a business registered in Georgia.