On Friday, the United States Department of Justice charged the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, with bank fraud and money laundering for moving more than $20m from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes.
In a statement, the American government said the airline’s Chief of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, had also been charged with bank fraud and “aggravated identity theft” in connection with the scheme.
“Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud,” US Attorney Byung Pak, was quoted to have said.
“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,” he added.
According to Pak, the indictment, and other information presented in court, beginning in 2010, Onyema began ttravelingfrequently to Atlanta, where he opened several personal and business bank accounts. Between 2010 and 2018, over $44.9m was allegedly transferred into his Atlanta-based accounts from foreign sources.
“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 $20m 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,” the statement reads in part.
It stated that, however, the supporting documents were fake as 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 $16m of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts,” it added.
Onyema, however, denied the allegations, describing them as false.
In a statement, Onyema said, “I confirm to you that all allegations are false and are in no way in line with my character as a person and as a bbusinessmanwhose only aim has been to build Nigeria and improve wellbeing.
“As the press statement clearly stated, these are indictments that only contain charges.
“I am innocent of all charges and the US government will find no dirt on me because I have never conducted business with any illegalities.”
Onyema said his lawyers had taken over the case.
“I never laundered money in my life, neither have I committed bank fraud anywhere in the world. Every Kobo 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.
“The American companies that received the funds are still in business. I never took a penny from any US bank or Nigerian bank.
“I am willing to defend my innocence in the US courts,” Onyema said.
CBN to Offer Single-digit Loans to Rice Farmers
The Central Bank of Nigeria has announced it would begin to offer single-digit loan to rice farmers in the Niger Delta area and provide index insurance for participating farmers.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Head, Press and Public Relations at the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Patricia Deworitshe.
It was issued after a second collaborative meeting between the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswil Akpabio, and representatives of the CBN in Abuja.
The meeting focused on how to develop the Niger Delta area, using farming as a tool on Friday.
According to Deworitshe, the representative of the CBN Governor at the meeting, Mr Anthony Ifechukwu, said that the CBN in 2018 identified cassava, rice, oil palm and cocoa farming as those with comparative advantage in the region, adding that the apex bank was also making an effort to intervene in livestock and fishery production in the region.
The statement said, “Ifechukwu also assured participating farmers of a guaranteed market price for their produce, explaining that the bank would give a single-digit interest loan for five years.
“He advised eligible farmers willing to participate in the scheme to procure quality seedlings from reputable companies and plant their crops in clusters, adding that CBN will do index insurance for participating farmers.”
Speaking at the meeting, Akpabio, who was represented by Permanent Secretary at the ministry, Adesola Olusade, reiterated the resolve of the ministry to key into the agricultural revolution in partnership with the CBN.
He said the ministry would focus on land acquisition for the project by approaching governors of the nine states in the region to address the issue (land acquisition) under the Land Use Act.
Akpabio stated that discussion on land acquisition would form part of the agenda for the next national council meeting, which would be held in Rivers State.
The minister spoke on the need for the programme to leverage the capacity of the private sector and the resuscitated National Agricultural Land Development Authority in the area of land preparation for the success of the scheme.
Greif Steels to Delist from NSE
The Nigerian Stock Exchange will experience a delisting of Greif Nigeria Plc, a manufacturer of steel drums and plastic containers.
The company said in a statement on Wednesday that the delisting would go through if approved at its Extraordinary General Meeting slated for January 23, 2020.
Greif Nigeria had in February decided to suspend its operations due to the low performance of the company and challenging market conditions.
The Chairman of the company, Mr Adedayo Olowoniyi, had said the company was performing below operating and material costs.
He said the company was working assiduously to prevail through the challenging business environment but still had issues in cost-recovery through several price increases in the market, despite adopting cost reduction measures and driving efficient methods.
Olowoniyi said, “As a result of increased competition and a stagnant market for steel drums, we do not see improvement happening soon. Greif Nigeria has been operating well below operating costs, even below direct material costs, and sees no signs of improved market conditions.
“Therefore, we have decided to stop operations with immediate effect. The coming months we will investigate if and/or how we can continue with Greif Nigeria.”
However, the company announced on Wednesday that sequel to the board meeting held on December 12, the company was also planning a sale of its assets, which means liquidation is in view.
The statement read in part, “The company’s land and buildings known and designated as the factory at No. 1, Alapata Road, Apapa, Lagos and residence at No. 3/5 Barracks Road, Apapa, Lagos be sold at a price and upon such terms and conditions negotiated and determined by the board.
“The company’s shares would also be delisted from the Nigerian Stock Exchange as the board has been authorised to take such steps or actions and to do all things as may be necessary to give full effect to the resolutions mentioned above.”
It added that its nominees recommended that the register of members and transfer books be closed from December 23 to 24, 2019 with both dates inclusive.
FEC Okays N200bn Loan for Bank of Industry.
The Federal Government Executive Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the sourcing of €500 million loan for the Bank of Industry from external creditors.
Briefing State House correspondents after the weekly FEC meeting at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa Abuja, the Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba explained that the loan was meant to support industrialization and agriculture, in addition to creating up to 1.2 million new jobs.
The 500 million Euro Sovereign Guarantee loan he said would be sourced for the Bank of Industry from external creditors. Agba said that the facility would be repaid in five (5) years and that the Federal Government guaranteed the loan.
According to him, ”Council today (yesterday) approved the issuance of a Sovereign Guarantee of 500 million Euros from the Credit Suisse AG London Branch and a syndicate of international lenders as collateral for 500m Euro facility to the Bank of Industry.
He further stated that the loan will be swapped to Naira by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to mitigate the foreign exchange risk and the fund will therefore be available to Nigerian enterprises at a more affordable rate and in local currency.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said council approved a Justice Sector Policy for the country essentially to reform the sector by simplifying access to justice.
He explained that the policy would ensure “speedy determination of justice”, “quality of justice” and “access to justice.”
He said: “It is a blue print that set out a shared vision, objectives and interventions for the reform of justice sector to engender fair, efficient and transparent administration of justice
CBN Stops Treasury Bills’ Sale to Individuals
The Central Bank of Nigeria, on Wednesday, gave directives to banks and other financial institutions to stop the sale of treasury bills to individuals and small firms with effect from November 29.
Only big corporate organisations would be allowed to do treasury bills investments.
Our correspondents learnt that banks were already notifying their customers of the new directive.
The sources, however, said the existing treasury bills investments would be allowed to continue till the end of their maturity dates.
A bank official said, “Operators are trying to see if the November 29 deadline given for the implementation by the CBN could be extended, so as to create enough awareness. But there is no move for the reversal of the directive.”
An operator said the inaccessibility of treasury bills might lead to an increase in savings deposits of the banks, attracting interest rates below what the treasury bills offered.
A source from the CBN said the move was to stop the mop-up of funds from the system through the treasury bills.
He said, “Many people with huge cash prefer to keep their funds idle in treasury bills instead of investing the funds. Some people collect huge severance package, have huge funds but they have refused to invest the money.
“We want these funds to be useful in the economy so that they will be available in the banks and can be invested to create more jobs in the country.”
He noted that the CBN had increased the Loan to Deposit Ratio of the banks from 60% to 65%.
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