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FACT CHECK: Did US demand extradition of Air Peace CEO as Fani-Kayode claimed?

FACT CHECK: Did US demand extradition of Air Peace CEO as Fani-Kayode claimed?
August 04
12:11 2021

On July 30, Femi Fani-Kayode, a former minister of aviation, claimed the United States requested for the extradition of Allen Onyema, the chief executive officer of Air Peace, on alleged fraud charges “but Nigeria stood by him”.

In 2019, Onyema was indicted by the United States Department of Justice for fraud and money laundering.

The airline boss was accused of moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through US bank accounts in a scheme involving “false documents” based on the purchase of aeroplanes.

Onyema, however, denied the allegation, describing it as unfounded and strange.

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Amid the Abba Kyari saga, Fani-Kayode tweeted: “When my friend Allen Onyema, the Chairman of Air Peace, was indicted by the FBI and the Americans demanded he be extradited we stood by him. Onyema was later vindicated. Why can’t we do the same for Abba? Is it wrong for us to ask them to show us evidence of his crime first?”

He has been defending Kyari, even saying he did not believe he took any bribe from Abbas Ramon aka Huspuppi, the self-confessed scam artist who is currently facing a potential 20-year jail term after admitting charges of money laundering.

HOW TRUE IS FANI-KAYODE’S CLAIM?

Checks by TheCable showed that the US never requested the extradition of Onyema.

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Extradition is a legal process by which one country may seek from another the surrender of a person who is wanted for prosecution or to serve a sentence following a conviction for a criminal offence.

It usually requires a treaty between two countries. It specifies extraditable offences and instances when extradition is to be denied.

According to the United States Justice Department, only prosecuting authorities may initiate an extradition request, usually “after charges are filed and a court has issued a warrant of arrest for the person”.

On November 19, 2019, the US issued a warrant to arrest Onyema for alleged money laundering and bank fraud.

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The warrant, signed by Justin Anand, a US magistrate in the district court of the northern district of Georgia, authorised U.S. Marshals Service to take Onyema into custody.

The warrant means Onyema will be arrested if he steps into the US.

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The arrest warrant issued by the US court can only be executed in Nigeria if Onyema surrenders himself voluntarily or if INTERPOL issues a “red alert”. Even then, a judicial process will have be followed before he can be extradited.

You can read more about red notices and extradition here.

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VERDICT: The claim made by Fani-Kayode that the US demanded the extradition of Onyema is misleading. Such a request was not made.



This story is published in partnership with Report for the World, a global service program that supports local public interest journalism.

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