Michael concerned that Air Peace chairman might have legal issues with US authorities that could impact the new LIAT

St. Peter MP Asot Michael has sought details about the Browne Administration’s agreement with the Nigerian carrier Air Peace for the acquisition of majority shares in the regional airline LIAT.

During the sitting of the Lower House on Thursday, May 18, Michael asked Prime Minister Gaston Browne whether a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or a sale agreement had been signed – with Browne confirming the latter.   

Browne says the Government has supported Air Peace’s acquisition of 70 percent of the shares in what will be the new LIAT (2020) Ltd.

Asked what the value of the 70 percent shareholding is, and how much Air Peace will pay for those shares, the prime minister said those logistics are currently being worked out.

However, according to his understanding, the investors will bring cash and assets, to include about three aircraft, Browne said.

Reportedly, two Nigerian airline executives had been indicted for bank fraud and money laundering by the United States Attorney’s Office in November 2019. They were the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Air Peace and its chief financial officer.

The two were charged for moving more than US$12 million from Nigeria to US bank accounts, for the purchase of airplanes, in a scheme that reportedly involved false documents.

When Browne was asked if he is aware of the US court matter, he said that, to his knowledge, the charges had been dropped.

The prime minister then went on to question Michael’s motives in raising the matter, and he likened the situation to a 2017 investigation into Michael, himself, that was conducted by an agency of the United Kingdom government.

Michael also asked whether the prime minister and, by extension, his administration was at all concerned that the purchase of LIAT’s shares could be another elaborate scheme by the Air Peace investors.

Notwithstanding Browne’s confidence in the investors, Michael cited an article on an American website, dated April 18, 2023, which claimed the US Department of Justice is continuing its investigations into the Nigerian airline’s chairman.

In response, Browne noted that Air Peace flies into the United States on a daily basis.  If that country can do business with the African airline, then why can Antigua and Barbuda not do the same, he asked.

He therefore disagreed with Michael’s assertions that Air Peace’s investment in the regional carrier could spell trouble with the US authorities for the new LIAT.