Arik Airline Owner, Arumeni-Ikhide, Others indicted for money laundering, fraud

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In what might signal the collapse of Arik Air Limited, its chairman, Mr Johnson Arumeni-Ikhide and directors have been indicted for money laundering by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and recommended for criminal trial.

The commission, which investigated the company for tax evasion totalling N5 billion, would also probe the sources of the firm's funding.

Apart from Arumeni, others on the company's board are the vice-chairman, Senator Anietie Okon, Mr. Michael McTighe, Olubiyi Sangowawa, Mr. Michael Arumeni-Ikhide, Mr. Dare Mabiaku, among others.

The commission, in its investigation which commenced on August 3, 2009, listed the laws breached by the company as;

•Money Laundering Violation: S. 14(a) of the Money Laundering Act - Money Laundering Offence predicated on the original illicit/illegal act of conversion of VAT (brings in the provision of 5.18 of Money Laundering Act to make the directors liable.

•Stealing/conversion: Contrary to S. 383(1), (2) (2)(e) and S. 387(f) of the Criminal Code Act and punishable under Section 390.

•Value Added Tax Act: Failure to keep proper records and accounts under Section 9 of Value Added Tax Act and punishable under S. 29 of the same act.

•Failure to submit returns contrary to S. 31 of Value Added Tax Act.

•Evasion of Tax contrary to S. 22 of Value Added Tax Act. iv. Effect of non-remittance of tax contrary to S. 31 of Value Added Tax Act.

•Offence by body corporate contrary to S. 33 of Value Added Tax Act - which makes every Director, Manager, Secretary, Management severally guilty of the Offence

“Investigation revealed that Arik Air Limited is a habitual tax evader. Their evasion history dates back to the period of commencement. Their account books are understated. The chairman does not consider tax as part of the company's obligation. They collect tax on behalf of government and invest it in their business. They accepted liability with a payment plan which they refused abide with.

“For the reason that this investigation is holistic, I request your permission to allow it probe into the company's source of funds. The company had 24 aircraft in its fleet when we commenced investigation about a year ago, information available to us reveals that it has acquired six more, yet the tax liability remains unpaid,” the commission said.

It was also revealed in an investigative report by the commission that the chairman of the commission, Arumemi-Ikhide, shunned four summons on him for interrogation in the course of the investigation.