The United States authorities have frozen about $14.2 million in bank accounts linked to companies registered by the chairman and chief executive officer of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema.
Onyema and the airline’s chief of administration and finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha are indicted by the US Department of Justice for alleged bank fraud and money laundering.
United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia said in a statement last Friday that Onyema and Eghagha who were charged yesterday allegedly moved more than $20 million from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of aircraft.
Both suspects strongly deny the allegations and said they looked forward to proving their innocence in court.
The charges said Onyema used several companies he set up in the U.S. to launder funds and commit bank fraud through issuance of counterfeit letters of credit.
Some of the companies’ bank accounts in the U.S. and Canada had been frozen with their substantial balances as part of the investigation, court documents showed.
According to Premium Times, the documents showed that $4,017,852.51 was seized from JP Morgan Chase Bank account number ending in 5512 held in the name of Springfield Aviation Company, LLC.
Another $4,593,842.05 held in Bank of Montreal with account number ending 7523 in the name of Springfield Aviation Inc. was also seized.
American government also traced and seized $5,634,842.04 held in Bank of Montreal with account number ending in 515 in the name of Bluestream Aero Services, Inc.
American law enforcement authorities indicated in the charge document that efforts had commenced to secure final forfeitures of the funds.
Meanwhile, the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, has said that the United States would have to notify the Nigerian authorities of Onyema’s indictment.
He said US government had neither officially communicated Onyema’s indictment to Nigeria nor requested his arrest or extradition based on a mutual legal agreement on criminal matters between the two countries.
“We have not received any request from the United States based on existing Mutual Legal Assistance between both countries,” Malami said.
Asked whether Nigeria would accede to a such request if received, Malami said: “It would be subjected to justifiable, objective legal analysis and review to evaluate the evidence, just like any other such request based on mutual legal assistance between Nigeria and United States,” he declared.
Meanwhile, Onyema said he was innocent of the money laundering charges pressed against him in the US.
“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,” Onyema said in a statement.