Nigerian tax authority arrests Arik Air executives for tax evasion

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Nigeria's Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has arrested three senior executives of Arik Air for alleged tax evasion, in a move that the carrier denies.

In a statement to FlightglobalPro, a FIRS spokesman said senior vice-president Rob Thomas, deputy executive vice-president Chris Ndule and chief financial officer Steve Garroro were arrested by FIRS officials.

"The suspects would soon be arraigned before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for alleged evasion and non-remittance of value added tax and withholding tax," said the spokesman.

Arik Air has an alleged tax liability of 3.48 billion Nigerian nairas ($22.2 million) of which it is understood only 1.63 billion has been paid, he added. It "later failed to honour an earlier payment schedule which it had proposed to the FIRS", claimed the spokesman.

The arrest of the executives, first reported in the Nigerian media, was denied by the carrier. In a statement, Arik Air said the senior executives named by the FIRS are "currently attending to business as usual at the company's headquarters in Lagos".

The carrier referred to a meeting on 26 October between Arik Air representatives and FIRS officials, saying it was a "scheduled appointment to discuss various standard income tax compliance issues including the reconciliation of accounts".

"The airline shall continue to cooperate fully with the FIRS," it added.

Asked by FlightglobalPro to comment on Arik Air's denial of the arrests. the FIRS spokesman reiterated the agency's statement, adding: "As a government organisation, we cannot be saying what we are not sure about."

The executives named by the FIRS have since been granted bail, he said. In the meantime, a date for their appearance in court has yet to be set, said the spokesman.