Airline executives from Dana Air (9J, Lagos) and the state-owned Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) have been called in for questioning by Nigerian police in connection with an investigation into fraud, conversion, and embezzlement relating to an aircraft of the now-defunct Afrijet Airlines (Lagos), reports Nigeria’s New Telegraph.

Dana Air Managing Director Hathiramani Jacky Ramesh confirmed to ch-aviation that he, along with six directors of the airline, had been called in for questioning by the Nigerian Police Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) on March 10, 2021. The directors are Hathiramani Guatam Ramesh, Ramesh Naraindas Hathiramani, Sabita Hathiramani, Prof. Elias Gbolahan Olubukola, Atekoja Adedolapo Ayodeji, and Talabi Sulaiman Owolabi.

AMCON's Group Head of Enforcement, Joshua Ikioda, and Special Asset Enforcement Head, Faruk Hakiru had also been called in for questioning. The FCID, in the letter addressed to AMCON’s Managing Director, Ahmed Kuru, said it was investigating a case of “fraud, conversion, and embezzlement”. AMCON spokesperson Jude Nwauzor did not respond to ch-aviation's request for comment.

Dana Air's Ramesh confirmed to ch-aviation that the investigation related to an MD-82, 5N-BKI (msn 49483), leased by Dana Air from AMCON. There was reportedly disagreement between the companies over outstanding lease payments and block-hour charges.

The New Telegraph reported that Nigerian police had instructed AMCON’s Kuru to furnish them with documents such as the aircraft lease agreement between AMCON and Dana Air in respect of the MD-82, effective October 2016.

Also to be furnished to the police were a letter from AMCON to Dana Air dated February 20, 2021; a letter from Dana Air to AMCON dated October 30, 2019, proposing re-negotiation of the aircraft lease agreement in respect of the MD-82. Also to be submitted were paid invoices in respect of the aircraft lease agreement from October 2016 to today.

The aircraft was acquired by the now-defunct Afrijet through a USD30 million African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) loan. The now-defunct Bank PHB reportedly guaranteed the loan to Afrijet. At the time the bank collapsed in 2011, the loan had not been repaid, the report said.

As previously reported by ch-aviation, the airline had operated two aircraft - MD-82 5N-BKI (msn 49482) and MD-83 5N-BKO (msn 49855) - on domestic and regional passenger flights between 1999 and 2009. It also ordered four ATR72-500s from ATR - Avions de Transport Régional (EVX, Toulouse Blagnac) in 2009 though none were ever delivered.

AMCON seized assets worth NGN10 billion (USD35.43 million) from Afrijet following a court order issued in Lagos in June 2016. AMCON inherited the carrier's debt obligation when it acquired the defunct FinBank and Bank PHB financial institutions back in 2011.

According to a former Afrijet executive, who asked not to be named, AMCON had taken over the aircraft to recover its losses. It had sold one and leased the other to Dana Air for five years.