Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)The founder of a major airline in Nigeria has been charged with bank fraud and money laundering for allegedly moving more than $20 million from foreign sources through American bank accounts and using it, in part, to pay for living expenses, luxury cars and high-end shopping, according to US officials and federal court documents.
Airline founder accused of bank fraud and laundering money to shop for jets, a Rolls Royce and Prada
Allen Onyema, 56, the chairman and founder of Air Peace, is accused of moving the money from Nigeria and other sources through US bank accounts in a scheme that involved organizations he founded in his home nation and false documents related to the purchase of airplanes, the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia announced Friday.
"Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud," US Attorney Byung Pak said in a news release. "We will diligently protect the integrity (of) our banking system from being corrupted by criminals, even when they disguise themselves in a cloak of international business."
Onyema, who earned praise this year after dispatching planes to offer free flights to Nigerians facing xenophobic violence in South Africa, denied the allegations in a statement issued to local reporters. He said he is "innocent of all charges and the US government will find no dirt on me because I have never conducted business with any illegalities."
"Be rest assured that I also have my lawyers on this and these mere allegations will be refuted," Onyema said. "I never laundered money in my life, neither have I committed bank fraud anywhere in the world. Every Kobo (of Nigerian currency) I transferred to the US for aircraft purchase went through the Central Bank of Nigeria LC regime and all were used for the same purpose.