Air Peace CEO Indicted For Bank Fraud & Money Laundering

Filed Under: Other Airlines

I’ve written extensively about Air Peace, a private Nigerian airline that I’ve been fascinated by. The airline has been flying since 2013 primarily as a regional airline, though just a few months ago they launched their first long haul flight to Sharjah in the UAE. The airline has big expansion plans, and wants to add flights to Guangzhou, Houston, and London.

The airline has a questionable safety record, though they do deserve some credit for at least existing, unlike Global Ghana Airlines, Goldstar Air, Avatar Airlines, etc.

The Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Allen Ifechukwu Athan Onyema, has been praised by many as a brilliant entrepreneur and philanthropist. Well, he is now facing some pretty serious charges.

The US Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia has just charged him with bank fraud and money laundering, for allegedly moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes.

Air Peace’s Chief of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, has also been charged with bank fraud and committing aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.

Here’s what allegedly happened (and I think it’s worth sharing the whole thing, since it’s quite interesting):

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.

Onyema is also the CEO and Chairman of Nigerian airline Air Peace, which he founded in 2013. 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.

Nice…

So does all of this news mean that Air Peace’s nonstop Lagos to Houston flight will be delayed by a bit?!

Comments
  1. So it turns out corporate executives *can* be indicted for financial crimes after all!? 30+ years of living in America had me thinking such an outcome was impossible under our legal system.

  2. Are these the people who were to entertain you while you were in Nigeria for a few days between Air Peace flights ? If yes, maybe it tells you something. Seriously, I hope you have given up on those insane plans…

  3. This happens more often than people think. You see a business and start thinking about its cost and then the lack of customers and realize it can’t be making money and it isn’t. There was a nightclub out west that was huge and while on Saturday nights it was packs most of the rest of the week the ~800 people capacity for dinner was ~10% full. Eventually they nailed the guy for money laundering.

    Lots of drug and other kinds of money out there that needs to be “laundered”.

  4. @rich

    Exactly. It was many years before I understood how my friend’s father, the owner of a not terribly successful neighborhood Italian restaurant, could afford to buy her a brand new 280SL for her 16th birthday.

    Of course, he must have been good at his side gig because he died peacefully in old age a few years ago, just before the restaurant closed.

  5. Gosh,what a judgemental group of people.If indictments are proof of guilt,then why bother to have Courts Of Law?
    Why not hold off on any conclusions, until,the accused are found guilty!

    Nigeria may have alot of corruption,but is it any different to companies lobbying goverments in the USA?Or not fixing design faults because it’s cheaper to settle law suits,than fix the problems.

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