The Managing Director of Air Nigeria, Mr. Kinfe Kahssaye, who was arrested yesterday by the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, over N4.7 billion tax evasion by the airline, has been flown to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, sources told P.M.NEWS early today.
It was learnt that Kahssaye might be charged with tax fraud spanning at least eight years.
FIRS stormed the corporate headquarters of Air Nigeria in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, yesterday, along with mobile policemen and promptly arrested its Managing Director.
James Binang, an Assistant Director at the FIRS Debt Enforcement Group, said in a press statement yesterday that Air Nigeria had evaded taxes for many years and must pay, adding that the crime is punishable by law.
The taxes, according to Air Nigeria, were allegedly evaded by Virgin Nigeria when it was owned by British business mogul, Richard Branson, who owns Virgin Atlantic.
Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim acquired Virgin Nigeria in 2010 and changed its name to Air Nigeria, inheriting both its assets and liabilities, according to tax officials.
In a statement last night, Air Nigeria said that the taxes are in dispute and needed to be reconciled and agreed upon.
“The FIRS is however not patient with such reconciliations but resorted to a military approach in a civilian era.
“Air Nigeria is not indebted to the government on current taxes since the acquisition of the airline by Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim, OFR. We therefore consider the FIRS action as uncivilised and condemnable,” said Mr. Samuel Ogbogoro, Air Nigeria Media Relations Manager.
Air Nigeria said it did not understand why the tax officials did not collect their taxes for eight years from previous management of the airline.
“We assure the general public that Air Nigeria cannot be intimidated by this crude approach and will not be ready to give bribe to any person no matter how highly placed. We will brief the general public as the issue progresses,” the airline said.
Air Nigeria said that it suspects external forces are trying to sabotage the airline.
“It should be noted that since the commencement of international operations on the Lagos – London route, Air Nigeria has become the object of orchestrated attacks that show clearly that this is a case of the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau. In following the external influence, local staff of the airline went on strike in May for May salary which the management has resolved amicably.
“As the airline was coming out of that, the news of it being grounded by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, infiltrated town.
“Again, as the airline was coming out of this with a clean bill of health, barely two days after, the airline is yet invaded in a military manner. We suspect that one other line of action will be coming in the coming week to further attempt to damage us in the public eye; but we assure the instigator of such uncivilised approach that Air Nigeria will not compromise its corporate values and development strategy,” Air Nigeria said.