The United States of America’s Department of Justice (DOJ), has alleged that amounts misappropriated by Mr Kingsley Kuku, the former head of office for the Presidential Amnesty programme, were transferred to bank accounts in the USA, where they were laundered and used to purchase airplanes to start Air Peace, as well as luxury homes and exotic vehicles.
Mr Kuku, who also served as special adviser to the president on Niger Delta under President Goodluck Jonathan for the duration of 2010 to 2015, was accused by the US Department of Justice of money laundering in the USA.
Air Peace which is one of the largest airlines in Nigeria with a fleet of about 23 airplanes, was launched in 2013. The recent reports coming out of the USA Department of Justice, will clearly pose a threat to the business activities of the airline if it successful, with a possible lawsuit against them on money laundering.
The US DOJ apparently had secretly been monitoring Mr Kuku and Air Peace. According to the source (THEWILL), the DOJ had formally written to the Nigerian Government under the Treaty for Mutual Legal Assistance, asking for the transfer of the case files of investigation conducted on Mr Kuku who coincidentally was deported last year by the Department of Homeland Security over Immigration fraud.
The following were also indicted in the scheme; Mr Allen Onyema, the CEO of the airline, Prince Chibudom Nwuche, who was a former Deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, who also allegedly laundered at least $8m from the Amnesty programme, as well as other individuals and companies linked to Mr Onyema.
Mr Allen Onyema was described by the USA as a business partner of Mr Kuku who laundered at least $44m through bank accounts in the USA.
A request for the bank accounts of AirPeace limited was made by the DOJ in the USA three weeks ago. Other bank accounts which where indicted in the money laundering scheme were; ”Ifechukwu Allen Athan Onyema, Tarere Viviinne, All Times Peace Media, Every Child Limited, Foundation of Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria, Allen Onyema and Company and Global Spectrum Energy Services PLC”.
The accounts requested for in the letter sent by the DOJ according to THEWILL, was to be between the period of April 1, 2010 till date.
In November 2019, the US Department of Justice in a statement, affirmed Mr Onyema’s indictment and charge for bank fraud and money laundering. He was charged with moving money worth more than $20m from Nigeria through US bank accounts, in a scheme involving forged documents for the purchase of airplanes.
The airline’s chief administration and finance manager, Mr Ejiroghene Eghagha was also charged with bank and identity fraud as well as aggravated identity fraud.
The US Attorney Byung Jay, claimed that Onyema took advantage of his prominence as a renowned business guru and airline executive while falsifying documents to commit fraud. he continued by saying that, ” we will diligently protect the integrity of our banking system from being corrupted by criminals, even when they disguise themselves with the cloak of international business.”
Robert .J. Murphy, a Special Agent in charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division, commenting in the incident said that, ”Allen Onyema’s status as a wealthy business man turned out to be a fraud. He corrupted the US banking system but his fraud of trickery and deceit came to a skidding halt.”
Thomas J. Holloman, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in charge of the Atlanta Field Office, said that ” this case is why IRS-CI seeks to partner and leverage its expertise in an effort to thwart those seeking to exploit our nation’s financial systems. He continued by stating that, ”With the importance if our banking system to the movement of money around the world, those attempting to use intricate schemes to commit bank fraud through the use of falsified documents and other means should know that the odds are heavily stacked against them, as law enforcement is combining its talents to protect the sanctity and intergrity of the nation’s financial system.”
According to US Attorney Pak, speaking on the indictment presented before the court, Onyema was the founder and chairman of different business organizations in Nigeria. He began travelling to Atlanta in 2010 where he opened different business and bank accounts. Between 2010 and 2018, over $44.9m was allegedly transferred into these Atlanta accounts from foreign sources”.
At the start of May 2016, Onyema and Eghagha allegedly used series of export letters of credit to cause banks to transfer more than $20m into Atlanta based accounts controlled by Onyema with the sole aim of purchasing 5 separate Boeing 737 passengers planes for Air Peace from Springfield Aviation company LLC, a business registered in Georgia. The documents supporting the purchase were fake. Springfield Aviation company is owned by Onyema.
On November 19, 2019, Allen Ifedichukwu Onyema, 56, of Lagos state, Nigeria and Ejiroghene Eghagha 37, of Lagos state Nigeria, were indicted on a one count charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, a 3 count charge of bank fraud, a one count of conspiracy to commit credit application fraud, and a 3 count charge of credit application fraud. Onyema was further charged with 27 counts of money laundering while Eghagha was charged with one count of identity theft.”