By Kenneth Ehigiator
Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yesterday stormed the Lagos head office of Arik Air over alleged N4.6 billion tax evasion.
It was learnt that the operatives also requested to see the airline’s directors to explain why it had allegedly failed to pay tax.
Vanguard gathered further that since the operatives could not get the top officials, the chief pilot, CaptainÂ Victor Egono and the airlineâ€™s chief security officer were taken away to make statements at the commissionâ€™s Lagos office.
However, the officials were allowed to go after making statements committing the airline to paying the said tax.
Arik Airâ€™s Media Officer, Mr. Olabanji Ola, said though some security operatives stormed its office, they did not disrupt flight operations, adding thatÂ he couldnâ€™t explain the reason the operatives visited the airline.
EFCC’s spokesman, Mr. Femi Babafemi, confirmed last night that the commissionâ€™s operatives visited Arik Air in search of its chairman andÂ managing director.
He said the visit was necessitated by the airlineâ€™s alleged evasion of N4.6 billion tax, adding that the operatives also visited following refusal of the chairman and managing director to honour several invitations to explain the alleged tax evasion.
He said: â€œ The EFCC chairman recently set up a team to investigate tax evasion to ascertain the link between tax evasion and money laundering.Â The team has so far recovered N3 billion from some companies, including airlines, according to him.
â€œFor Arik, the team found out that the airline has evaded N4.6 billion.Â We have invited the chairman and his team to explain the tax evasion, but they refused to honour our invitation.Â In fact, Arik has on its own fixed seven meetings without honouring any of them.
â€œThe last meeting was fixed for last Wednesday, yet they refused to honour the meeting.Â That is why this afternoon (yesterday), our operatives stormed the place to get the chairman and the managing director to explain the tax evasion, but they met their absence.
â€œBut they picked the chief pilot, Capt. Victor Egono and the CSO, and took them to our office to make a statement.Â They were released immediately after because the airlineâ€™s lawyer gave a commitment.â€
Babafemi said the investigation of companies for tax evasion was a continuous one, stressing that the essence was mainly to ascertain tax evasionâ€™s link to money laundering.
Arikâ€™s Media Officer, Banji Ola, said though EFCC operatives stormed the companyâ€™s Lagos head office, the operation did not disrupt flights.
He said a in text message to Vanguard last night: â€œ Operatives of the EFCC visited our Lagos head office today (yesterday) over claims of purported irregularity in tax remittances.Â They have since withdrawn and the airline has continued with operations.â€
He, however, refused to be drawn into how much was involved in the tax evasion.