Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - Nigeria's Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has filed charges of tax evasion and fraud against the country's second largest indigenous carrier Air Nigeria, in the latest crisis to hit the airline.
According to local media reports on Thursday, FIRS has sued the airline at the Federal High Court in the capital city of Abuja for failure to pay taxes amounting to 4.86 billion naira over five years and for allegedly forging a Tax Clearance Certificate (US$1=157 Naira).
The charges were filed following Monday's arrest of the Chief Executive Officer of the airline, Mr. Kinfe Kahssaye. He was released Tuesday.
Air Nigeria said in a statement issued after the arrest that FIRS used armed police to invade its offices in an ''uncivilized and condemnable'' fashion. It said the back taxes were owed when Mr. Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic was running Virgin Nigeria.
For its part, the FIRS explained in a statement that its visit to the offices of the airline was aimed at ''recovering arrears of taxes accruing to government from Withholding Tax (WHT) and Value Added Tax (VAT)”.
Air Nigeria, which operates 11 aircraft on domestic, regional and international routes, has recently faced a lot of crises.
Last week, its entire fleet was grounded for several days by the regulatory Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for safety checks, following a strike by its pilots and engineers.
Air Nigeria emerged from the takeover of Virgin Nigeria by Nigerian businessman Jimoh Ibrahim.
-0- PANA SEG 21June2012