As part of a sweep against tax fraudsters, the Federal Inland Revenue Sevices (FIRS) today arrested the CEO of Air Nigeria, Mr. Kinfe Kahssaye, for failing to pay company taxes amounting to N4.7 billion.
The tax agents arrested Mr. Kahssaye at the head office of Air Nigeria and plan to transfer him to Abuja where he'll likely be charged for tax fraud.
A release from FIRS’ Debt Enforcement and Special Prosecution says the government aims to recover tax arrears they are owed by Kahssaye. These cover 2011 and 2012.
In the release, James Binang, Assistant Director of the debt enforcement group, explained that the refusal to deduct and remit taxes as well as failure to file tax returns amount to criminal offences.
The airline was also alleged to have requested and obtained a Tax Clearance Certificate (TCC), giving it a clean bill of health, despite its tax liabilities. Kahssaye has acknowledged the company’s liabilities but says he needs more time to settle them.
FIRS agents are now said to be looking for Jimoh Ibrahim, chairman of Air Nigeria, in the same case. He is expected to be charged in absentia during the week.
Ibrahim came under fire this year from the airline’s former Executive Director for Finance, John I Nnorom who accused him of being uninterested in the maintenance of company aircraft.
“Some of the certifying Engineers and I are under threat of assassination by Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, if we reveal this secret to Nigerians,” he said.
Nnorom, who resigned his appointment with the airline, on April 1, 2012, urged Nigerians not to fly Air Nigeria until the planes were confirmed to be air worthy.
Air Nigeria was recently grounded by the National Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in Nigeria shortly after its engineers resumed from a weeklong strike.
Mr. Ibrahim took over what used to be Virgin Nigeria and renamed it Air Nigeria, initially with 11 aircraft. The company increased its fleet including bigger planes for the Lagos-London routes, but the expansion also led to a serious debt profile including unpaid aircraft lease fees to GECAS in Dubai, Lufthansa and unpaid airport fees in Ghana.
Other CEOs arrested by FIRS for unpaid taxes totaling N2.17 billion include: Pivot Engineering Ltd, owing N609, 911,992:36, Reliance Telecommunications Ltd, owing N592,756,627:00, HITV Ltd, owing N309,500,065:55 and UTC Nigeria Plc, owing N277,589,163:74, Sweet Sensation Confectionary Ltd, owing N155, 483,013:00, Entertainment Highway Ltd, owing N197, 444,964:55 and John Holt Nig. Ltd, owing N33, 073,487:52.