Thursday, 24 September 2020

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Items filtered by date: November 2019

The United States authorities have frozen about $14.2 million in bank accounts linked to companies registered by Allen Onyema, the chairman of Air Peace Limited.

Mr Onyema and Ejiroghene Eghagha, Air Peace’s head of finance and administration, were indicted 19 November for alleged money laundering and bank fraud in the United States.

Both suspects strongly denied the allegations and said they looked forward to proving their innocence in court.

The charges were first made public by the United States Department of Justice on Friday night.

The charges said Mr Onyema used several companies he set up in the U.S. to launder funds and commit bank fraud through issuance of counterfeit letters of credit.

Some of the companies’ bank accounts in the U.S. and Canada had been frozen with their substantial balances as part of the investigation, court documents showed.

The documents showed that $4,017,852.51 was seized from JP Morgan Chase Bank account number ending in 5512 held in the name of Springfield Aviation Company, LLC.

Another $4,593,842.05 held in Bank of Montreal with account number ending 7523 in the name of Springfield Aviation Inc. was also seized.

The American government also traced and seized $5,634,842.04 held in Bank of Montreal with account number ending in 515 in the name of Bluestream Aero Services, Inc.

American law enforcement authorities indicated in the charge document that efforts had commenced to secure final forfeitures of the funds.

In an earlier statement Saturday, Mr Onyema said he was innocent.

“As the press statement clearly stated, these are indictment (sic) that only contain charges,” the statement said.

“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.

“Be rest assured that I also have my lawyers on this and these mere allegations will be refuted. 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,” the AirPeace CEO stated.

Published in Business and Economy

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.

Allen Onyema
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."
Nigerians return home, fleeing xenophobic attacks in South Africa
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.
"The American companies that received the funds are still in business," he stated. "I never took a penny from any US bank or Nigerian bank. I am willing to defend my innocence in the US courts."
Attorneys for Onyema later sent a statement to CNN via a public relations firm in Atlanta.
"On behalf of Allen Onyema, we hereby state that he strongly denies and will vigorously defend himself against the allegations made against him by the US Attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, in relation to purchase of aircraft, aircraft spares and aircraft maintenance," the statement said. "None of the allegations involve any third party funds but relate to his funds utilized in the airline business. There is no allegation that any bank (in the United States, Nigeria or elsewhere), company or individual suffered any financial or any loss whatsoever. The allegations are unfounded and strange to him. Allen Onyema has a track record built on honesty and integrity and will take all necessary steps to clear his good name and hard earned reputation. He looks forward to an opportunity to rebut these allegations in Court."
Onyema faces 27 counts of money laundering, three counts of bank fraud, three counts of credit application fraud and two conspiracy charges.
A warrant was issued Tuesday for his arrest, the court record shows. CNN could not immediately reach Onyema for comment.

US accounts were 'alleged fronts for his scam'

About a decade ago, Onyema, a Nigerian citizen, started traveling frequently to Atlanta, where he opened personal and business bank accounts, federal prosecutors' statement said.
Between 2010 and 2018, about $45 million "was allegedly transferred into his Atlanta-based accounts from foreign sources," they said. The sum included several instances of "hundreds of thousands of dollars transferred directly" from accounts for four organizations Onyema founded to promote peace in his home country to a personal bank account he shared with his wife, according to an indictment filed Tuesday.
Onyema used money in those accounts during the period to pay for "personal living expenses," including an armored Lexus LX570, a Rolls Royce and a Mercedes, plus for purchases at Prada, Neiman Marcus, Macy's, Louis Vuitton and Apple stores in Atlanta, the indictment states.
In 2013, Onyema founded his airline and in the following years traveled to the US and bought planes, the statement says. More than $3 million used for those purchases allegedly came from bank accounts of four of his organizations, which "purport to promote peace across Nigeria," the news release states.
Then in 2016, Onyema and an associate allegedly used fake letters of credit and supporting documents to get banks to transfer more than $20 million to Atlanta-based bank accounts that he controlled, then "allegedly laundered over $16 million of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts," the US attorney's office says.
"Onyema setup various innocent sounding multi-million dollar asset purchases which were nothing more than alleged fronts for his scam," said acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer.
Published in Headliners

Adoke's lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, said Adoke was arrested by Interpol on Monday, November 11, 2019, after travelling to Dubai for a medical appointment.

The investigation by Nigeria's anti-graft agency relates to the $1.3bn sale of a Nigerian offshore oilfield known as OPL 245 by Malabu Oil and Gas in 2011.

The agency obtained arrest warrants in April for Adoke, former petroleum minister Dan Etete, and an Eni manager.

Eni and Shell jointly acquired the field from Malabu, which was owned by Etete.

The oilfield sale has spawned legal cases across several countries, involving Nigerian government officials and senior executives from ENI and Royal Dutch Shell. Shell and Eni, and their executives have denied any wrongdoing.

Etete has also denied wrongdoing.

In an Italian case, prosecutors accuse former and current executives of Eni and Shell of paying bribes to secure the licence, and allege roughly $1.1bn of the total was siphoned to agents and middlemen.

"We have written to Dubai authorities, the EFCC (anti-graft agency), and the Nigerian authorities to free Adoke to allow him to go on with his medical treatment in Dubai," Ozekhome said.

He added that the arrest warrant had, in fact, expired after being nullified by a court in October, because Adoke was not served with the charges before the warrant was issued.

A government communication office in Dubai did not respond to an email seeking comment. Nigeria's EFCC and Interpol were not immediately available for comment.

Ozekhome said Adoke has appeared in court in Nigeria in the past over the OPL 245 case and was exonerated.

Published in Headliners

Adoke's lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, said Adoke was arrested by Interpol on Monday, November 11, 2019, after travelling to Dubai for a medical appointment.

The investigation by Nigeria's anti-graft agency relates to the $1.3bn sale of a Nigerian offshore oilfield known as OPL 245 by Malabu Oil and Gas in 2011.

The agency obtained arrest warrants in April for Adoke, former petroleum minister Dan Etete, and an Eni manager.

Eni and Shell jointly acquired the field from Malabu, which was owned by Etete.

The oilfield sale has spawned legal cases across several countries, involving Nigerian government officials and senior executives from ENI and Royal Dutch Shell. Shell and Eni, and their executives have denied any wrongdoing.

Etete has also denied wrongdoing.

In an Italian case, prosecutors accuse former and current executives of Eni and Shell of paying bribes to secure the licence, and allege roughly $1.1bn of the total was siphoned to agents and middlemen.

"We have written to Dubai authorities, the EFCC (anti-graft agency), and the Nigerian authorities to free Adoke to allow him to go on with his medical treatment in Dubai," Ozekhome said.

He added that the arrest warrant had, in fact, expired after being nullified by a court in October, because Adoke was not served with the charges before the warrant was issued.

A government communication office in Dubai did not respond to an email seeking comment. Nigeria's EFCC and Interpol were not immediately available for comment.

Ozekhome said Adoke has appeared in court in Nigeria in the past over the OPL 245 case and was exonerated.

Published in Headliners
Monday, 11 November 2019 17:47

Tam David-West dies at 83

Renowned professor of virology, activist and former minister of petroleum, Tamuno David-West is dead.

He died Monday at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan at the age of 83 years.

David-West was born in Buguma, Kalabari, Rivers State.

He worked as lecturer and became a professor at the University of Ibadan where he lived and died. He joined the university in 1969 and became professor of virology in 1975.

David-West served in Nigerian government as commissioner for education and a member of the Executive Council of Rivers State from 1975 to 1979.

He was a member of the 50-person Constitution Drafting Committee for the Federal Military Government in 1979.

He served as federal minister of petroleum and energy under General Muhammadu Buhari from 1984 to 1985 and as minister of mines, power, and steel under General Ibrahim Babangida in 1986.

He was eventually removed as minister and arrested by the Babangida regime for allegedly contributing to the economic adversity of the country. He was discharged and acquitted of these charges by Nigeria’s Special Appeal Court on 8 August 1991.

A strong supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari, David-West will be remembered for his strong views on national issues and how he brought historical perspectives to proffer solutions to national crises.

Published in Business and Economy

*FBI agents here linked a series of complicated financial scams to an organized crime ring that started as a fraternal organization.

TAMPA — It started with a complaint about a clever check-fraud scam that had bilked a small Georgia law firm out of nearly $100,000. The money wound up in a bank account in Tampa but then vanished into other accounts overseas, spurring the interest of local FBI agents.

What followed was an investigation that has stretched on now for six years, ensnared 13 defendants and uprooted a complex international fraud scheme responsible for losses in excess of $10 million, agents and federal prosecutors say.

The probe reached its zenith last month when a man who who helped orchestrate the scheme appeared in a Tampa courtroom to face a sentence of 15 years in federal prison.

Ikechuwku “Ike” Amadi, 38, is a dual Canadian and Nigerian citizen. He worked, according to the FBI, with a Nigeria-based criminal organization known as the Black Axe Group.

The conspirators “sit in Internet cafes in Nigeria and conduct fraud online,” said FBI Special Agent Devin Williams, who headed the investigation.

The Black Axe started as a fraternal organization on college campuses in Nigeria in the 1970s. It eventually evolved into an organized crime group. In the United States and around the world, the group is responsible for the loss of millions of dollars through a variety of elaborate cons.

They include what are known as “romance scams,” where conspirators pose as potential suitors on dating websites. They follow detailed scripts to gradually charm their victims, often lonely widows. In some cases, the fraudsters conduct research about the victim’s hometown and claim to live in an area nearby. The aim is to eventually lure victims with a phony investment opportunity, convincing them to cash in their retirement savings or home equity and wire it into a bank account in the United States.

Other scams targeted title companies with phony cashier’s checks for fake real estate transactions. Still others targeted businesses and law firms through email spoofing and hacking schemes.

The Tampa case started as a tip from a law firm in Columbus, Ga. The firm lost about $96,000 through a fraud in which someone posed as a business owner seeking payment of a debt from another company. Partial payment was made in the form of a cashier’s check made out to the firm. A lawyer was then instructed to wire the funds to a Bank of America account in Tampa. Only after the money left the account did the lawyer learn the cashier’s check was fake.

FBI agents found that the bank account belonged to an associate of a Tampa man, Muhammad Naji. Naji eventually cooperated with FBI agents. He explained that he worked for a man from Canada, whom he knew only as “Melvin.”

Melvin was Ike Amadi. From his perch in Toronto, Canada, he orchestrated a network of people like Naji who are described in court records as “money mules.” Their job was to open bank accounts, often in the names of shell companies, that would store the ill-gotten monies as deposits. As soon as the money arrived, the mules would send it overseas before the theft could be discovered.

The money mules received 5 to 10 percent of the stolen funds. Amadi also got a cut. The rest went to the Black Axe.

Naji helped identify other mules. They included Priscilla Ellis, a Texas woman who also helped create high-quality forgeries of checks and other documents. After her conviction in federal court, she made headlines when she tried to arrange the contract killings of witnesses who had testified against her. Her prison release date is nearly a century away.Amandi was arrested in Canada in 2015. He fought extradition to the United States but eventually agreed to be sent to Tampa.

Published in Headliners

News that President Muhammadu Buhari signed on Monday a law on the oil industry that will be of immense benefit to Nigeria, was overshadowed by the information that the signing was done in London, where Buhari is vacationing, in the presence of his chief of staff, Abba Kyari.

According to the President, “Today is an important day for all Nigerians – but particularly the young generation.

“Today I signed into law the amended Deep Offshore Act. Nigeria will now receive its fair, rightful and equitable share of income from our own natural resources for the first time since 2003.

“In that year oil prices began a steep increase to double – and at times – triple over the following decade.

“All this time Nigeria has failed to secure its equitable share of the proceeds of oil production, for all attempts to amend the law on the distribution of income have failed. That is, until today.

“Rapid reductions in the cost of exploration, extraction and maintenance of oil fields had occurred over these 25 years, at the same time as sales prices have risen.

“A combination of complicity by Nigerian politicians and feet-dragging by oil companies has, for more than a quarter-century, conspired to keep taxes to the barest minimum above $20 per barrel – even as now the price is some three times the value.

“Today this changes. For the first time under our amended law, 200 million Nigerians will start to receive a fair return on the surfeit of resources of our lands. Increased income will allow for new hospitals, schools, infrastructure and jobs.

“Today marks a new and beneficial relationship with our oil company partners: one that benefits all – starting with the Nigerian people.”

The import of the signing, in which the president was casually dressed and Abba Kyari was even suited, was lost as Nigerians questioned the appropriateness of the president’s action when there is a vice president in Nigeria.

Buhari left Nigeria for a 21-day trip without transmitting power to the Vice-President, with his spin doctors saying he could govern from anywhere, including when he is not officially working for the country.

Published in Headliners

With the global success of Joker, it’s only natural to wonder what’s next for the character — and if there’s any chance we’d ever see Joaquin Phoenix put on his signature clown paint again. It’s hard to imagine how the film’s director, Todd Phillips, could pick up from the film’s haunting ending and continue the story. But that didn’t the film’s star from devising a creative way to try to convince him to make a sequel.

If it was a joke, it was an elaborate one. During production on Joker, Joaquin Phoenix would leave little hints to Todd Phillips about what the future could have in store for his character.

Joaquin Phoenix’s on-set antics may have been enough to get Todd Phillips to seriously consider continuing the Joker’s story. Phillips told The Los Angeles Times he definitely remembered the Yentl poster, and one for Forrest Gump, and another for his own previous movie The Hangover. He continued on the topic if a potential sequel:

The director isn’t sure it’s possible to recreate the unique set of circumstances that made Joker so successful. But he has given it some thought:

Published in Entertainment

“I went from wanting to be Suge to hating Suge to fucking with him”

The Game has released new song ‘Stainless’, which hears him reflect on his relationship with Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight – listen to it below.

The new track is set to feature on the ‘Hate It or Love It’ rapper’s upcoming ninth studio album, ‘Born 2 Rap’, which is schedule to be released on November 29.

With Anderson .Paak on the hook, ‘Stainless’ hears The Game share his perspective on several West Coast figures, including Suge Knight.

I went from wanting to be Suge to hating Suge to fucking with him/ 28 years a long ass time, it’s fucking with him,” he raps, referencing Knight’s recent prison sentence.Talked to him on the phone the other day/ About how he could’ve signed me before Dre… If that nigga Bron Bron rap it would sound like this/ Somewhere between Cube and ‘Kiss, I can’t miss.

Elsewhere on the record, The Game namechecks 2Pac, pays homage to one of the tracks on his diamond-selling double album All Eyez on Me, and sends a rest in peace shout out to late Outlawz members Fatal and Kadafi.

“Picture me rolling like ‘Pac, nigga/ But I’m not Pac, nigga/ I be in that Beamer with it cocked, nigga,” he spits. “Baby Lane killed ‘Pac/ Niggas killed Baby Lane/ Bountry was busting back, Heron died in his chain/ A fatal car crash killed Fatal Hussein/ R.I.P. Kadafi, driving down memory lane.”

Published in Arts & Culture

Bitmain, a leading bitcoin miner, has secretly filed for an IPO that is sponsored by Deutsche Bank, a German multinational company, as reported by Tencent News. The company has been struggling to bounce back since crypto winter. The black swan event dampened demand for cryptocurrency mining machines, causing profitability to plummet. The reported secret filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will help raise badly needed capital. Bitmain is reportedly looking to raise between $300 million and $500 million through the fundraiser.

The company had initially sought to raise about $3 billion via the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) but faced pushback from regulators. It has hired Zheng Hua, a former NASDAQ China representative, as a project consultant to increase the chances of approval.

Power Struggle

The top brass at Bitmain has been locked in leadership wrangles for years now. This is according to a new revealing report, which illustrates an escalation of tensions between co-founders Jihan Wu and Micree Zhan.

On Tuesday, Zhan was ousted as executive director at the company by Wu. Staff at the firm also received a bellicose statement warning them against interacting with the exiled leader.

A leaked transcript of an internal meeting shows that the company had in the past missed growth opportunities due to disagreements. According to Wu, internal divisions caused The Bank of Beijing to retract a credit offer, which could have been used to clear its books. This subsequently caused problems with suppliers.

The SEC, which is mandated to protect investor interests, will likely look at such issues in its determination.

A Few Major Hurdles Related to the IPO

The reality is that crypto companies will struggle to gain IPO approval in major jurisdictions, such as the United States and China. The latter has already blacklisted crypto companies from filing IPOs. Regulators deem it too premature for crypto-centric firms to seek one because there is no legal framework to serve as guidance.

Getting approval from the SEC seems like an insurmountable hurdle at the moment due to the level of trepidation surrounding the industry. The mill pond environment is capricious at best. Digital currency prices change all the time and are highly susceptible to manipulation. The SEC approval of an IPO connected to bitcoin, an unregulated digital commodity, is unlikely. It has, in the past, rejected bitcoin ETFs because of this factor.

The U.S.-China Trade War Threat

Since the onset of the U.S.-China trade war, the Trump administration has made a flurry of threats against Chinese tech companies in the U.S., and in September, there were rumors that the White House was looking to delist some of them from capital markets. Chinese company stocks dropped momentarily in anticipation of the move.

Although unlikely, the reports sent jitters across investment circles. At the same time, NASDAQ was reported to be tightening restrictions for small Chinese companies seeking IPO approvals.

There is speculation that the U.S. is looking to limit investments in Chinese companies this way.

Published in News & Stories
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