Onyema stated this while reacting to a $20 million fraud allegation levelled against him by the United States Government.
In a statement by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, Onyema and Air Peace’s Chief of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, was also charged with bank fraud and committing aggravated identity theft.
“Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud.” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak was quoted in the statement as saying.
Onyema, however, noted the allegation against him are false adding that all transactions were carried out through the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The Air Peace owner described himself as as a business man whose only aim has been to build Nigeria and improve wellbeing.
“As the press statement clearly stated, these are indictment that only contains charges. 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,” Onyema said.
“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,” he announced.
How Air Peace CEO “defrauded” America
“Onyema setup various innocent sounding multi-million dollar asset purchases which were nothing more than alleged fronts for his scam,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in Georgia and Alabama.
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the indictment, and other information presented in court: “Onyema, a Nigerian citizen and businessman, is the founder and Chairman of several organizations that purport to promote peace across Nigeria, including the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, International Center for Non-Violence and Peace Development, and All-Time Peace Media Communications Limited.
“Beginning in 2010, Onyema began travelling frequently to Atlanta, where he opened several personal and business bank accounts. Between 2010 and 2018, over $44.9 million was allegedly transferred into his Atlanta-based accounts from foreign sources.”
According to the statement, “in years following the founding of Air Peace, he traveled to the United States and purchased multiple airplanes for the airline. However, over $3 million of the funds used to purchase the aircraft allegedly came from bank accounts for Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, International Center for Non-Violence and Peace Development, All-Time Peace Media Communications Limited, and Every Child Limited.
“Beginning in approximately May 2016, Onyema, together with Eghagha, allegedly used a series of export letters of credit to cause banks to transfer more than $20 million into Atlanta-based bank accounts controlled by Onyema. The letters of credit were purportedly to fund the purchase of five separate Boeing 737 passenger planes by Air Peace. The letters were supported by 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.
“However, the supporting documents were fake — Springfield Aviation Company LLC, which is owned by Onyema and managed by a person with no connection to the aviation business, never owned the aircraft, and the company that allegedly drafted the appraisals did not exist.
“Eghagha allegedly participated in this scheme as well, directing the Springfield Aviation manager to sign and send false documents to banks and even using the manager’s identity to further the fraud. After Onyema received the money in the United States, he allegedly laundered over $16 million of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts.”
Onyema founded Air Peace in 2013.