The United States’ Attorney’s Office has charged the Founder and Chairman, Air Peace Nigeria, Allen Onyema, with bank fraud and money laundering for moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes.
Chief of Administration and Finance of the airline, Ejiroghene Eghagha, was also charged with bank fraud and committing aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.
Details: The Air Peace boss 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, said, “We will diligently protect the integrity our banking system from being corrupted by criminals, even when they disguise themselves in a cloak of international business.”
Commenting on the development, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division, Robert J. Murphy, said, “Allen Onyema’s status as a wealthy businessman turned out to be a fraud. He corrupted the U.S. banking system, but his trail of deceit and trickery came to a skidding halt. DEA would like to thank the many law enforcement partners and the subsequent prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office who aided in making this investigation a success.”
Thomas J. Holloman, IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Office, explained that the case is a prime example of why IRS-CI seeks to partner and leverage its expertise in an effort to thwart those seeking to exploit the nation’s financial system.
He said, “With the importance of 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 now heavily stacked against them as law enforcement is combining its talents to protect the sanctity and integrity of the nation’s financial system.”
The acting Special Agent in Charge, Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in Georgia and Alabama, alledged that the Air Peace boss set up various innocent-sounding multi-million dollar asset purchases which were nothing more than alleged fronts for his scam.
“I am proud to be part of a team of law enforcement agencies that come together to identify and attack criminals that attempt to profit from the exploitation of our nation’s financial systems.”
How it started, according to the US
U.S. Attorney Pak stated that 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.
After he founded Air Peace in 2013, he travelled 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, which are his firms.
Around 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.
Pak said, “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.”
However, efforts made by our analyst to get Air Peace to respond to the allegations were to no avail. Mail and messages sent were not addressed or responded to.
But it is important to note that the indictment only contains charges as 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.
Currently, several agencies like 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 are investigating this case.
On the other hand, the United States Consul General John Bray, had lauded the efforts of the airline on investing greatly in the future of the aviation industry during the signing ceremony for the sale of 10 new Boeing 737 Max aircraft to Air Peace, September 2018.
Bray said, “The U.S. government is committed to expanding economic engagement, trade and investment ties with Nigeria. This signing ceremony highlights another deal which will strengthen the bond between the United States and Nigeria”.
[READ FURTHER: Air Peace gets rights to commence daily flights to South Africa]
According to Boeing Sales Director Tolliver, the 737 MAX is the fastest-selling airplane in Boeing’s history, accumulating more than 4,700 orders from 102 customers worldwide.
He listed fuel efficiency and superior operating economics as some of the factors creating a strong demand for the 737 Max aircraft.
Lagos revisits Ehingbeti Economic Summit, to hold first virtual edition
The Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget said the State will again host the Ehingbeti Summit.
Lagos State government has decided to resuscitate its annual Ehingbeti Summit after it held the last one in 2014.
The 2020 edition, which is to hold virtually between November 10-12, is themed ‘For greater Lagos: Setting the tone for the next decade.’
This was disclosed by the Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Samuel Egube on Sunday during an interactive session with journalists, which was attended by Nairametrics.
Egube explained that most of the developments recorded in the states over the years were from ideas and recommendations gathered from the previous editions of the summit.
According to him, the summit, which is a collaboration between the state and private sector operators, has seen the government implement 109 out of 119 resolutions suggested to the state government in past editions.
He said, “The rail line projects, the Lekki toll gate, among others are ideas generated from the economic summit. The summit has a rich history and is firmly established as a credible forum for stimulating economic growth for Lagos state. It is our belief that you cannot lead a place like Lagos with one mind you have to bring together all the minds. The first one was hosted in 2000 making this the 20th year since the first summit was held. The first three editions were deliberately diagnostic but by the fourth one, we had started to create a blueprint and have started to implement it from the early decisions that had been made.”
He added that the good thing about the summit is that the government is responsible for the decisions taken and that they are obliged to report back to the next Ehingbeti what it has done with the decision taken and if there are challenges.
“We highlight what those challenges were and take other decisions on how to repair those challenges. To some it appears the ambitions are too high, because how do you put the private sector in the lead and collaborate in that manner. They have wondered whether the government can be trusted to follow through with this idea of collaboration, but the performance shows that yes, we follow through,” he stated.
According to him, with the summit, what the Lagos state government is trying to do is stimulate contribution from the private sector, get them interested in the governance of the state and lead the way in terms of the outcomes.
What BBNaija winner, Laycon can do with N30 million
Nairametrics has come up with possible investments that Laycon should consider, as he begins his millionaire phase.
After 71 days of intense competition, the season 5 of BBNaija tagged, Big Brother Naija Lockdown, came to an intriguing end yesterday, as one person walked away with the N85 million total grand prize.
After 10 weeks of staying cooped in one house, executing several tasks from sponsors, partying every Saturday, and watching their competitors leave one after the other; 5 finalists emerged from the 20 that started the show – Vee, Neo, Nengi, Dorathy, and Laycon.
Of the 5, just 1 emerged winner – Olamilekan Agbeleshe, popularly known as ‘Laycon’.
As earlier announced by Multichoice, N30 million was awarded to him as cash prize, with the supplementary 55 million covering;
- A two-bedroom apartment courtesy of Revolution Plus
- A top of the range SUV from Nigerian automaker, Innoson Motors
- A trip to Dublin courtesy of Guinness
- Home appliances courtesy of Scanfrost, and a branded Chiller
- A trip to Dubai packaged by Travelbeta
- 1-year supply of Indomie noodles, Munch it, and Colgate toothpaste
- 1-year supply of Pepsi
- A trip to watch the UEFA Champions League finale
- A brand new Oppo Reno 3 smartphone.
Not many are surprised with the outcome, as Laycon was a strong contender from the first day in the house. Despite his vivid intelligence and calm nature; his victory can be attributed to a strong social media strategy by his campaign team. His acceptance was easier, being a lightweight Twitter influencer himself prior to the show.
Also, from the diary session in the final week, two of the finalists projected Laycon as the most likely winner. Nengi, particularly said she had always considered Laycon a strong competition, and she views him as someone viewers would love. Neo saw Nengi as a possible winner, while Laycon thought Dorathy to be his biggest competition. Vee said that Laycon had strong plans of what to do with the money, and believes he is deserving of the grand prize.
Speaking of strong plans, Nairametrics research team has come up with possible investments that Mr. Agbeleshebioba Massoud Al Khalifah aka Laycon should consider, as he begins his millionaire phase.
Already, the finalists have won some prizes via tasks from sponsors of the show; in fact, all of the finalists have won at least N3million prize each, and Laycon in particular has about N7 million in excess winnings. Assuming that this N7 million and other gifts would take care of his living expenses for the next few months, while he channels the N30 million into worthwhile investments.
The 26-year-old singer and rapper has over the last couple of years built a music profile that could benefit massively from his new-found fame. Already, front-line artistes like Davido are hinting a possible collabo with the University of Lagos graduate.
In April 2019, Fierce Nation signed on Laycon, alongside Runnjozzy. His singing career dates back to the 2014 Coke Studio University of Lagos event, where he was one of the 10 artistes who performed. Later in 2017, he was one of the top 10 finalists at the MTV Base LSB challenge.
After struggling through his music career for years, without recognition, Laycon will discover that N30 million is a lot of money if invested wisely. It is also a sum that could evaporate in a matter of weeks, if misused.
Mercy Eke, winner of last year’s ‘Pepper Dem’ edition, invested her cash winnings in expanding her luxury clothing line, and launching her real estate company “Lambo Homes” which she founded in partnership with a seasoned real estate Consultant/luxury property developer, and an experienced lawyer.
Now, Laycon does not have a luxury clothing line which he might want to expand, but Research Analyst Samuel Oyekanmi avers that he could consider real estate investments just like last year’s winner. He may not have to start a real estate company, if he has no interest in it, and some landed property could make a good addition to his portfolio, given that the value rarely depreciates. “Such property could become hoteling centres or rented apartments, and bring impressive returns over time,” he said.
Founder of Nairametrics, Ugochukwu ‘Ugodre’ Obi-Chukwu, suggests Laycon should consider choice stocks in the Nigerian and foreign stock exchanges, as well as investments in money market instruments, where some decent profits can be made.
According to him, “This will also be the time to look into Agri-Tech investments, using crowdsourcing platforms, after which you can sit back and watch your funds grow over a time span of 5 months to a year.”
Another investment worth considering is Food production. Food is a necessity, and the border closure has done wonders for investments along the food value chain, from farming to processing, and so on.
The transportation sector can also be considered. With proper management, an investment in a couple of vehicles in the transport line, could also yield good returns for Laycon.
Nairametrics’ Investment Analyst, Olumide Adesina, thinks that Crypto-currencies are a good bet at this time, as they are now being used to facilitate payments. He said, “Cryptos offer the highest yield across financial assets, and investing in them can only turn out great. It has recently been attracting institutional funds, and is properly regulated through a legal framework. Laycon could also consider Agro-allied stocks, as many of them have performed quite well. In spite of the insecurity problems disrupting farming in Northern Nigeria, agro stocks such as Okomu Oil have enriched investors, through dividend pay-outs and appreciation of share price. A lot of investors are looking at U.S stocks, but among the log, the tech market remains the most attractive, after the impressive performance tech companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon put on this year. A lot of people have been spending more time on their phones, working remotely, moving their businesses to the digital space, and providing services down the value chain; all of these has improved the performance of tech stocks.”
Laycon might need to keep all these in mind, while drawing up the budget allocation for his N30 million cash prize.
These industries drove business activities in September
The development indicates recovery as manufacturers continue to benefit from the ease of the lockdown.
Despite the fact that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) declared last Wednesday that the nation’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) contracted at 46.9 index points, some industries still drove business activities in September.
The industries are Electrical equipment, up from 33.3 index points in August to 66.7 index points; Transportation equipment from 53.8 to 58.1; and Paper products from 44.4 to 50 within the same period.
Though, the Cement industry and non-metalic mineral products dropped from 64.4 to 58.1 and 66.0 to 50.6 index points respectively, the sub-sectors still contributed to the business activities recorded in September.
This was disclosed by the apex bank in its September PMI report released on Wednesday.
Nairametrics had earlier reported that manufacturing PMI for August stood at 48.5 index points, indicating contraction in the sector for the fourth consecutive month.
Also, out of the 14 surveyed subsectors, 5 sub-sectors reported expansion (above 50 index points thresholds), while the others contracted.
Meanwhile, the production level index for the manufacturing sector indicated contraction in September 2020 for the fifth consecutive month, as well as Employment level and Raw material inventories.
However, the manufacturing supplier delivery time index stood at 53.5 points in September 2020, indicating faster supplier delivery time for the fifth time.
Is the nation coming out of the woods?
Though CBN revealed that only 4 sub-sectors reported expansion in September, contrary to the 6 sub-sectors recorded in August, it is imperative to note that this is an improvement when compared to manufacturing activities in May and June, or the performance in July which saw 12 sub-sectors decline, with one reporting no change, while one expanded.
The impressive performance of cement and other sub-sectors, according to the manufacturing PMI report, is attributable to the expansion in production, new orders, employment, and raw materials’ inventories.
A cursory look at the financials of key players in the industrial goods sector showed that despite the increased cost of higher energy pricing and adverse COVID-19 impacts on transport and naira devaluation, key cement manufacturers still recorded increased topline, driven by demand surge from domestic cement sales.
Back story: Nairametrics had reported on Wednesday that 9 subsectors reported contraction (below 50% threshold) in the reviewed month in the following order:
- Petroleum & coal products
- Primary metal
- Furniture & related products
- Printing & related support activities
- Food, beverage & tobacco products
- Textile, apparel, leather & footwear
- Chemical & pharmaceutical products
- Fabricated metal products and
- Plastics & rubber products
The Non-manufacturing sector PMI stood at 41.9 points in September 2020, indicating contraction in nonmanufacturing PMI, for the sixth consecutive month.
In all, the development indicates recovery as manufacturers continue to benefit from the ease of the lockdown.
However, conditions within the domestic economy remain relatively tight, reflecting continued uncertainties as investors remain cautious of the lingering risk of the pandemic.