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REVEALED: How U.S Kept Close Tabs On Air Peace Boss Allen Onyema’s Financial Transactions For 9yrs

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A 36-page indictment filed on November 19, 2019, at the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, has shown that the U.S has been on the trail of Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema’s financial transactions for a long time, leading to his indictment for money laundering and fraud.

In an indictment filed on November 19, 2019, at the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, Onyema and Air Peace Chief of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, were indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, three counts of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit credit application fraud, and three counts of credit application fraud.

In addition, Onyema was charged with 27 counts of money laundering, and Eghagha was charged with one count of aggravated identity theft.

Onyema has however denied all the allegations leveled against him and has expressed his intention to vigorously defend himself in the court.

The Justice Department has also stated that the “indictment only contains charges” and “the defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.”

The investigation involving Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Commerce, and Department of Treasury, showed that the US kept close tabs on Onyema’s financial transactions, including his business and personal spendings, from as far back as 2010.

An earlier statement by the US Department of Justice, Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Georgia, said the prosecution was brought as a part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), “which enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations against a continuum of priority targets and their affiliate illicit financial networks.”

Detailing his financial transactions from around 2010, the indictment revealed that Onyema began frequently traveling to Atlanta, Georgia and from 2010 and continuing through 2017, he traveled back and forth between Nigeria and Atlanta, Georgia to conduct various financial transactions.

It read: “On or about April 2, 2010, Onyema opened a checking account ending in. 8086 in the name of Allen I. Onyema at a Bank of America branch in Atlanta, Georgia (“BOA 8086”). Onyema was the sole authorized signatory on the account. In or around August 2011, Onyema added his wife as a joint member to BOA 8086.

“Between April 2010 and January 2016, Onyema transferred millions of dollars into his BOA 8086 account from Nigerian and other foreign bank accounts, including hundreds of thousands of dollars transferred directly from accounts for Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, International Center for Non-Violence and Peace Development, All-Time Peace Media Communications Limited, and Every Child Limited.

“Onyema used the funds in his BOA 8086 account to pay for personal living expenses, among other purchases. For example, Onyema purchased an armoured Lexus LX570 ($204,000.00), using, in part, funds from BOA 8086.”

Count One
of the indictment which deals with Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud alleged that starting from a date unknown, but around May 2016 and continuing through at least February 2018, Onyema and Eghagha, and others “knowingly and willfully combine, conspire, confederate, agree, and have a tacit understanding with each other and with others to commit bank fraud, an offense against the United States, that is to knowingly devise and execute and attempt to execute a scheme and artifice (i) to defraud financial institutions the deposits of which were insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, that is, Wells Fargo Bank and JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, and (ii) to obtain and attempt to obtain moneys, funds, and assets owned by and under the custody and control of those financial institutions by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, as well as by omission of material facts, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1344.”

The indictment also noted that Onyema founded Air Peace in 2013 and serves as chairman and CEO. It alleged that between 2013 and 2014, Onyema used multiple foreign bank accounts, including several Nigerian accounts, to purchase airplanes for the Air Peace fleet.

According to the indictment, these planes included Boeing 737 aircraft bearing serial numbers 25234, 25235, and 27530, and Dornier 328 aircraft bearing serial numbers 3221 and 3171.

It also noted that funds to purchase these aircraft came from accounts for All-time Peace Media Communications, Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, Every Child Limited, and International Center for Non-Violence, adding that the total amount of funds from these accounts used to purchase aircraft for Air Peace exceeded $3,000,000.

“Between 2013 and 2016, accounts associated with Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, International Center for Non-Violence and Peace Development, All- Time Peace Media Communications Limited, and Every Child Limited in Nigeria transferred more than $3.8 million into bank accounts in the United States to a combination of escrow, logistical, and personal accounts. The funds were used to acquire, export, and service aircraft, as well as to purchase personal property,” it added.

The indictment also showed that Onyema founded and allegedly used Springfield Aviation Company, LEC to facilitate large transfers of funds from his Nigerian bank accounts to the United States.

“On or about April 4, 2016, a business attorney, at the direction of Onyema, established Springfield Aviation Company, LLC (“Springfield Aviation”) as a Limited Liability Company registered in Atlanta, Georgia that purported to specialize in the wholesaling, trading, and sale of commercial aircraft and parts. Onyema is the owner of Springfield Aviation.

“Onyema recruited E.M. to act as a manager of Springfield Aviation and to enter into contracts on its behalf.

“E.M. has no connection to the aviation business outside of her role with Springfield Aviation and has no education, training, or licensing in the review and valuation of aircraft, including aircraft components.”

“On or about July 18, 2016, Onyema opened a business checking account ending in 8621 in the name of Springfield Aviation Company, LLC at a Wells Fargo branch in Atlanta, Georgia (“WF 8621”). Onyema was the sole authorized signer on WF 8621. In or about March 2017, Onyema opened a savings account ending in 0125 in the name of Springfield Aviation Company LLC at a Wells Fargo branch in Atlanta, Georgia (“WF 0125”).

“Onyema used WF 8621 to pay for personal expenses, among other things. For example, the account was used to make purchases at Atlanta locations of Publix, Macy’s, DSW, the Ritz-Carlton, and various restaurants.

“On August 22, 2018, Onyema established Bluestream Aero Services and Springfield Aviation Company in Ontario, Canada. Onyema also opened business bank accounts ending in 7523 held in the name of Springfield Aviation Company and 7515 held in the name of Bluestream Aero Services at Bank of Montreal (Canada).

“In November 2018, Onyema transferred around $10 million from WF 8020 to the Bank of Montreal accounts,” it alleged.

Alleging a scheme to defraud
, the indictment noted that about May 2016 and continuing through May 2017, Onyema, on behalf of Air Peace, purchased several aircraft.

It added that around May 2016 and February 2018, Onyema, Eghagha and others applied for export letters of credit to cause the transfer of funds from a Nigerian bank account for Air Peace to Springfield Aviation bank accounts controlled by Onyema, purportedly to fund the purchase of aircraft by Air Peace from Springfield Aviation.

It however noted that the aircraft that was referenced in each of the export letters of credit was never owned or sold by Springfield Aviation.

“In support of the letters of credit and to cause the disbursement of funds from either Wells Fargo Bank or JPMorgan Chase Bank NA into Springfield Aviation’s account, Onyrma, Eghagha, and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, with intent to defraud, submitted false documents to Wells Fargo, including fabricated purchase agreements, bills of sale, and valuation documents.

“Eghagha sent false documents to E.M. and directed E.M.to sign the documents on behalf of Springfield Aviation. Eghagha instructed E.M. to present false documents to the respective banks in support of each letter of credit.

In or around May 2016, Onyema, as the owner, Chairman, and CEO of Air Peace negotiated and purchased the Boeing 737-500 aircraft bearing manufacturer’s serial number (“MSN”) 28721 (“Boeing 28721”) from Commercial Jet Solutions, LLC. That sale was consummated by an Aircraft Purchase Agreement dated May 16, 2016, and a Bill of Sale dated July 13, 2016, for a total of $2,078,000.

It read: “The purchase was completed using three wire transfers from WE 8020 totaling $2,078,000: $500,000 on or about May 16, 2016; $73,000 on or about May 23, 2016; and $1,505,000 on or about July 14, 2016.“In or about November 2016, Wells Fargo Bank received an export letter of credit request from Fidelity Bank in Nigeria on behalf of applicant Air Peace Ltd. The letter of credit requested that Wells Fargo accepts as a transfer $1,682,184 for the benefit of Springfield Aviation. The purpose of the letter of credit was purportedly to fund Air Peace’s purchase of Boeing 28721 from Springfield Aviation, an aircraft already owned by Air Peace that was never owned by Springfield Aviation. The letter of credit was identified as FB16ILL00063. The directions for the letter of credit state that “Documents must strictly conform with the terms and conditions of the attached letter of credit” and that “Documents Dated Prior To L/C Opening Date Not Acceptable.”

“In support of the letter of credit and to cause the disbursement of funds from Wells Fargo into Springfield Aviation’s account, Onyema, Eghagha, and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury presented false documents to Wells Fargo. Those documents included, among others:

“Sales and Purchase Agreement dated June 1, 2016, between Springfield Aviation and Air Peace for the Boeing 737, signed by ONYEMA as Chairman/CEO of Air Peace and signed by E.M. as Manager of Springfield Aviation, on or about September 22, 2016;

“Notarized Bill of Sale from Springfield Aviation to Air Peace, dated December 30, 2016;

“Commercial Invoice from Springfield Aviation to Air Peace, dated December 30, 2016;

“Valuation submitted on behalf of Springfield Aviation on December 30, 2016, which purported to be a “full aircraft appraisal” by “JMI LLC” that estimated the current market value of the Boeing Aircraft as $3,000,000; and

“Delivery Certificate dated December 30, 2016, certifying that Springfield Aviation delivered Boeing 28721 to Air Peace in conformity with the terms of the letter of credit.

“JMI LLC was not a valid business that conducted airplane valuations at any time relevant to this Indictment.

“On or about January 9, 2017, the letter of credit was amended to increase the amount of the anticipated transfer to $2,000,000.

“On or about February 10, 2017, Wells Fargo transferred $1,982,228.46 into Springfield Aviation’s Wells Fargo account, WF 8621.”

(THISDAY)

BIG STORY

FG Insists On Wednesday Deadline For NIN Registration

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The Federal Government on Sunday insisted that the deadlines given for the registration of all Subscriber Identification Modules with valid National Identity Numbers were still in force.

It also declared that the NIN was mandatory for diplomats who reside in Nigeria, as well as for all other lawful residents across the country.

Asked whether the Federal Government had eventually advised the Nigerian Communications Commission as regards the deadlines for SIM registration with NIN, the Director, Public Affairs, NCC, Ikechukwu Adinde, told our correspondent that nothing had changed.

It was reported on Thursday that the NCC was awaiting the advice of the Federal Government as regards the stipulated deadlines.

“The deadlines are still in force; there is no update for now and just like I told you last week if there is any change you will be communicated,” Adinde stated on Sunday.

Calls for deadline extension are mainly due to the large crowds that gather daily at the various offices of the National Identity Management Commission, as many telephone subscribers had yet to get their NINs.

On December 15, 2020, the Federal Government declared that after December 30, 2020, all SIMs that were not registered with valid NINs on the network of telecommunications companies would be blocked.

It later extended the December 30, 2020 deadline following widespread opposition against the earlier announcement and gave three-week extension for subscribers with NIN from December 30, 2020, to January 19, 2021.

It also gave six-week extension for subscribers without NIN from December 30, 2020, to February 9, 2021, but many organisations had called for a further deadline extension or outright suspension of the NIN integration process.

This came as the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, declared on Sunday that all diplomats living in Nigeria must have NINs.

The minister approved the setting up of a NIN enrolment centre at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs for diplomats. The desk would be set up on January 19, 2021.

A statement issued in Abuja by Pantami’s aide, Femi Adeluyi, stated that the centre would provide support for members of the diplomatic corps and would be managed by the communications ministry through NIMC.

The ministry stated that the centre was being set up based on the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, in order to simplify the process for diplomats.

It said, “The NIN is mandatory for diplomats who will reside in Nigeria for a continuous period of two years or more.

“It is also mandatory for all other lawful residents in the country as stated in Section 16 of the NIMC Act 2007.”

It stated that the law had made it mandatory for Nigerians and legal residents to obtain a NIN since 2007.

It, however, noted that compliance had been low, until recently.

It said the communications ministry was committed to creating an environment that was conducive for all Nigerians and legal residents to obtain their NINs.

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Lagos Schools To Run Second Term For 61 Days

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Barring any closure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the second term of the 2020/2021 academic session is meant to last for 61 days for public and private schools in Lagos.

According to the revised calendar for the 2020/2021 academic session released by the Office of the Education Quality Assurance (OEQA), the second term is slated to run from January 18, 2021, to April 30.

The mid-term break has been scheduled for March 4 and 5.

There will also be two public holidays – Good Friday on April 2 and Easter Monday on April 5.

Resumption for the third term has been scheduled for May 4, while the term is to terminate August 6.

Schools have been directed to strictly follow the time table.

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Dangote Completes Nigeria’s Longest Concrete Road

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The Dangote Group has completed Nigeria’s longest rigid pavement located in Kogi State.

It is the first of its kind, top engineers say.

The 43KM Obajana-Kabba road constructed by Dangote Industries Limited (DIL), as

been described by motorists as the country’s most strategic highway that is aiding travelers between the North and the South.

Olatunbosun O. Kalejaiye, the Project Director, said he was excited that the Corporate Social Responsibility Project is being delivered for use by Nigerians, adding that while the rigid pavement has been completed, the company was dressing the shoulders.

Site Engineer Samuel Obosi assured that the dual carriageway will be durable and less susceptible to potholes and repairs like asphalt road, adding that it would crash the rate of road accidents in the country.

Motorists said it is now one of the busiest roads linking the two regions in the country.

“Thank God it is a concrete road. It can withstand any heavy-duty vehicle,” Alhaji Lamidi Sikiru, a driver expressed optimism.

John Moses, a member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, said his taxi business is booming compared to when the road was very deplorable with potholes and barely used by motorists.

A community leader of Apa Bunu Kingdom and spokesperson for the community Sam Omosayil commended the Dangote Group, saying that the road has attracted a lot of businesses along the road.

Traditional and community leaders eulogized the President of the Dangote Group.

The Bajana of Obajana Land, King Idowu Senibi described the project as gigantic and the first of its kind anywhere in Nigeria.

“Dangote is our son. We would protect his huge investment and gigantic concrete road. I am happy that this is happening in my lifetime and in my Kingdom. This is a great opportunity for us and many generations to come. Our society will be opened as you can see vehicles and commercial activities have started coming up. May God Almighty bless Dangote and all his staff.”

Speaking in the same vein, the traditional head of Akpata Land Frederick Durojaiye Balogun said his people were very proud of Alhaji Aliko Dangote, adding that the Dangote Cement, Obajana plant, which is the single largest cement plant in the world, has brought honour and respect to their Kingdoms.

“His presence has brought a total turnaround in our lives. Also, permit me to appreciate the Federal Government for this joint effort. We are very grateful,” he said.

Speaking, the King of Okebunku Land in Kabba Bunu Local Government, Timothy Omonile commended the President of the Dangote Group and charged other philanthropists to emulate him, adding that that is the only way Nigeria can develop its economy and infrastructure.

He said the construction of the road has helped cut down the rate of criminality in the state while describing the Group President of Dangote Group Aliko Dangote as God sent.

Rechel Olatunji, a businesswoman said she makes more money now and that business is booming because of the road.

Another businesswoman Veronica Samuel prayed fervently for the Dangote Group, adding that the new road has changed her life, and enabled her to sponsor her children to school.

Worried by the huge sum of money used in road repairs, President of the Dangote Group Aliko Dangote had said plans were afoot to revolutionize Nigerian roads with concrete, stressing that resources used in road repairs and maintenance would be channeled to other more important needs of the nation.

“We are going to be building concrete roads in the country so that anytime we build a road, we do not have to go back to repair after the third raining season, but move on and use the resources to address other pressing needs of Nigeria,” Mr. Dangote had said.

It would be recalled that as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS), the Dangote Group had earlier commissioned the 26 km Itori-Ibese Concrete Road.

At the commissioning, the Minister of Power, Works, and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, had noted that the stride by the Dangote Group demonstrated the unwavering commitments of an indigenous investor towards the industrialization of Nigeria.

A statement from the Corporate Communications Department of the Dangote Group said: “Concrete roads last longer than asphalt roads and do not have potholes. It does not require frequent maintenance as asphalt roads. It saves fuel for motorists and protects tires from wear and tears.”

The statement said it is part of the Group’s determination to support the government and Nigerians in order to grow the economy and facilitate ease of doing business.

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