• Saturday, July 20, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Bank’s aircraft grounded over failure to pay import duty

Explainer: How private jet operators operate ‘illegally’ as commercial

The Federal Government through the Nigeria Customs Service has grounded a United States-registered Gulfstream G650ER jet belonging to a leading Nigerian bank, showing the commencement of government clampdowns on private jet owners over unpaid import duty running into several billions of naira, Punch reports.

The development is coming barely two weeks after the NCS began a one-month verification exercise for private jet owners in the country. The exercise which began on June 19, 2024, is expected to end on July 19, 2024.

Read also: Keyamo says private jets used for money laundering, drug trafficking

In a public notice by the Customs, the exercise aims to identify private jet operators that have illegally imported aircraft into the country without paying the necessary import duties.

The customs had recovered about N2bn into the government coffers when a similar exercise was carried out in 2019.

At least 80 private jet owners are expected to present their import documents and aircraft certificate of registration to the Customs in Abuja during the one-month exercise.

Although the grounding of private jets which have not paid the necessary import duty is expected to begin after the one-month Customs verification exercise, findings showed that moves by some operators to export their aircraft might have forced the NCS to begin the clampdowns on some private jet operators.

The Nigeria Customs Service had last week said some operators of foreign registered private jets were temporarily flying their aircraft out of the country apparently in a bid to evade the exercise.

However, findings by The PUNCH on Sunday disclosed that a luxury Gulfstream G650ER plane belonging to a tier-1 bank had been grounded at Lagos airport over unpaid import duties reportedly estimated at N1.9bn.

It was learnt that the NCS had written the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency asking them to cancel the flight clearance approval given to the private aircraft.

Read also: FG launches platform to monitor import duty exemptions

According to Punch, the agencies had received the letters to distrain the US-registered Gulfstream G650ER with registration number N331AB and manufacturer’s serial number 6487.

The bank is reportedly owing about N1.9bn in unpaid import duties to the government on two formerly owned private jets (Gulfstream G450 and Gulfstream G550 aircraft), which according to sources have since been taken out of the country.

It was also understood that the assessment of N1.9bn was based on a verification exercise carried out by the NCS in 2021.

Going by the current exchange rate, the N1.9bn might be raised to about N6bn. Aircraft import duties are computed based on prevailing exchange rate.