The embattled boss of Nigerian airline, Air Peace, Allen Onyema, has dissociated himself from a human rights suit filed on his behalf by an Abuja lawyer. The lawyer, Johnmary Jideobi, filed the suit after the Air Peace boss was indicted in the United States for alleged bank fraud and money laundering.
Jideobi claimed he wanted the court to enforce fundamental human rights of Onyema. But Onyema’e lawyers yesterday disowned the lawsuit, saying the Air Peace boss does not know the lawyer and has nothing to do with the case.
“We hereby state on behalf of our client, that at no time did he instruct the said Mr. Johnmary C. Jideobi to institute any action on his behalf in respect of the subject matter of the Indictment now pending against him in the United States of America,” the chambers of A. O. Alegeh & Co said in emailed statement. Our Client has no knowledge of the said action and did not consent to the filing of same. As a matter of fact, Our Client does not know the said Mr. Johnmary C. Jideobi.”
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ), in a statement on Friday November 22, said Onyema has been charged with bank fraud and money laundering of over $20 million. Ejiro Eghagha, Air Peace’s international airline’s Chief of Administration and Finance, was also accused of committing bank fraud and identity theft.
The US authorities said Onyema moved the money from “Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes.” The Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division Robert J. Murphy, accused the Air Peace boss of corrupting the U.S. banking system.
The US authorities said 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. This, the authorities said, started in 2016.
“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.”
But Onyema and Eghagha’s lawyers insisted that the allegations against their clients were untrue and that they are willing to defend themselves against the allegations in court. “None of the allegations involve any third party funds but relate to his funds utilized in the Airline business,” lawyers from the chamber of AO Alegeh said in a statement; adding: “There is no allegation that any Bank [in the United States, Nigeria or elsewhere], Company or individual suffered any financial or any loss whatsoever.”