Paradise Papers: Inside the complex offshore world of Arik Air founder, Arumemi-Ikhide

Joseph-Arumemi-Ikhide
Joseph-Arumemi-Ikhide, founder of Arik Air [Photo: THISDAY LIVE]

Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide, the founder of Nigeria’s biggest commercial airline, Arik Air, is perhaps the country’s most prolific user of offshore entities. Mr Arumemi-Ikhide, alongside his wife, Mary, owns and maintains an intricate network of shell companies scattered across notorious tax havens, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

The revelation was brought to light as almost 400 journalists from 96 media organisations across the world analysed leaked data obtained by German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung, and the International Consortium of International Journalists (ICIJ) from two offshore secrecy providers (Appleby and Asiaciti Trust) and 19 secrecy jurisdictions around the world.

The leaked 1.4 terabyte data, named Paradise Papers, consist of 13.4 million records and is no doubt one of the biggest leaks in history. PREMIUM TIMES is the only Nigerian media organization involved in the investigation.

Documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES and other ICIJ partners revealed that Mr Arumemi-Ikhide and his wife are the beneficial owners of multiple shell companies registered and managed on his behalf by Appleby.

The companies include, JMIA (605) Aircraft Leasing Ltd, Gexair Ltd, JMIA (605) Aircraft Operator Ltd, and JMIA (6000) Aircraft Leasing Ltd (both companies were incorporated in the Isle of Man) as well as a company called Rockson International Group Ltd, incorporated in British Virgin Islands (BVI), whose business focus remained unclear.

Documents also sourced from the Panama Papers leak also revealed that the duo hired controversial Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca, to help them incorporate and manage a string of shell companies in the BVI.

The shell entities includes St Joseph Properties Ltd, St Gregory Properties Ltd, Ojemaie Properties Ltd, St. Gregory Holding Ltd and St. Overbury Properties Limited.

In a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Arumemi-Ikhide said he did nothing unusual by operating multiple shell companies offshore.

“As a business person, we can have many offshore companies,” he said. “It is ease of doing business. You can create a company and you don’t use it. Why are people shouting?”

“In CAC people have 14 companies and don’t use it. It is not fraud and avoiding taxes. It is when you want to start business you bring out the company. You register a company so when the opportunity comes you grab it,” he said.

“Red Flag”/ “High Risk” Person

Despite being an avid user of offshore entities, Mr. Arumemi-Ikhide didn’t get much love in return even from some of the most notorious secrecy providers who either deal cautiously with him or declined to act as his agents, documents show.

In 2015, Appleby contracted American Financial information firm, Dow Jones, to do a due diligence research on him. The report alleged a string of money laundering allegations, and made reference to investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The report also tagged Mr Arumeni-Ikhide Politically Exposed Person (PEP) with link to a former Governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili. He was also labelled a “chronic debtor” and was flagged for allegedly engaging in business discussion with the government of Cote D’Ivoire in 2013, when the country was under international sanctions.

In a list of 135 PEPs, rated from low to high risk, the Arik founder was rated “high risk” and given the additional label of “red flag”. He was the only person in the list with the label.

Similarly, in 2015, Mossack Fonseca resigned as agent and operator of four of Mr Arumemi-Ikhide’s shell companies after five years of chasing his representatives for identification documents needed for another due diligence report on the businessman.

An internal email thread obtained from the Panamanian law firm also revealed the company’s own investigations unearthed “adverse information” about Mr Arumemi-Ikhide.

“Since we found adverse results regarding Joseph Ikhide Akinola Arumemi-Ikhide listed as director and shareholder of the reference companies and taking in consideration that we do not have due diligence information, we will resign as registered agent of the mentioned company.

“Considering the lack of documentation, details and respective explanations about the information found in the compliance searches, the compliance committee decided that Mossack Fonseca will not continue providing service as registered agent to the following companies:

589684 – St. Gregory Properties Ltd

6011957 – St. Joseph Properties Ltd

6010550 – St. Gregory Holding Ltd

533335 – St. Overbury Properties Limited

“Please proceed to assign a case of resignation as registered agent of the companies,” wrote Gustavo Sevillano, Mossack Fonseca’s compliance official, in an email.”

When asked to comment on why he was blacklisted by Mossack Fonseca and tagged a high risk individual by Appleby, Mr Arumemi evaded the question and proceeded to repeat his justification for setting up shell companies, this time arguing that everybody does it.

“Fonseca, everybody used it even Dangote. Everybody registered company. All these companies are operating. We are not operating them there are no bank account to them. That is why they are called Shell companies,” he said.

The $73 million Private Jets

In January 2014, Mr. Arumemi-Ikhide requested the services of Appleby to help him set up two firms — JMIA (605) Aircraft Leasing Ltd and JMIA (6000) Aircraft Leasing Ltd — as Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) to purchase two new private jets worth $73 million.

“The client has requested that we set up two SPV’s to own two new aircraft, one Challenger 605 (USD 28,000,000) and one Global 6000 (USD 45,000,000),” one of the documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES show.

“The client is selling his current aircraft to finance the new ones together with financing provided by Invector [a Mauritian bank]. Law Firm are lead counsel for the entire transaction. The UBO [ultimate beneficial owner] will be the sole shareholder of these two entities, potentially via our nominee shareholder,” the document added.

He was charged £5,000 to set up each of the shell companies including £5,000 annually as responsibility fee and £5,000 annually as administrative cost.

Another document showed that Mr Arumemi-Ikhide, on October 30, 2014, applied for a loan of $19.7 million to finance the purchase of the Global 6000 and another loan of $7 million to finance the purchase of the Challenger 605.

The data also revealed that Mr Arumemi-Ikhide used nominee directors appointed by Appleby and Darbara Limited, an Isle of Man firm, to hide his ownership of some of his shell companies. For instance, in 2014, he consented to a 150-year deed for Darbara Limited to hold his shares in JMIA (605) Aircraft leasing Ltd as a trustee.

“The nominee declares that it holds the shares as trustee and, save as permitted by clause 3 of this deed, as nominee under a bare trust for Joseph Ikhide Akinola Arumemi-Ikhide, a national of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” a document reads.

The agreement however stipulates that Darbara Limited shall “account to the beneficiary owner for all dividends and other distributions received in respect of the shares” as well as “exercise, as the beneficial owner may from time to time direct, all voting and other rights.”

But despite documents showing that he bought two private jet, when asked, Mr Arumemi-Ikhide claimed he only bought one Bombardier aircraft for $23 million through a financing firm – JMIA (605) Leasing Limited.

He also said he was not the owner of the company and that he returned the aircraft to the financing firm 18 months ago after having no further use for the aircraft.

“If you want to buy a Toyota car you go to Elizade (a popular auto dealer). And now if you don’t have money you use a company that specialise in buying Toyota car. They will buy the car. The name of the company for instance, is Ibekwe finance company limited.

“It is not my company because I cannot sell it to anybody. It is a normal transaction. There is nothing about avoiding tax or something.

“I do not own the company. It is just a finance company,” he said.

Links with Benedict Peters

To highlight the intricate nature of Mr Arumemi-Ikhide’s offshores companies, while several documents seen identified him and his wife as the joint owners of JMIA (605) Aircraft Leasing Ltd and JMIA (6000) Aircraft Leasing Ltd, two documents obtained from the leaked database linked the companies to oil mogul and owner of Aiteo Group, Benedict Peters.

General Controllers Limited, a shell company owned by Mr Peters, was identified as “sole corporate director” of JMIA (605) Aircraft leasing Limited and JMIA (6000) Aircraft Leasing Limited. General Controllers Limited also co-signed two documents appointing Arik Air International Ltd and Blue Marble Aviation Limited (one of Mr Arumemi-Ikhide’s United Kingdom companies) as agents for receiving service of process in any legal proceeding in the United States and the UK.

At least one of Mr Peters’ London properties was linked to the alleged bribery case involving a former petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke. The property is one of three London properties linked to Mrs Alison-Madueke which has now been frozen under the UK Proceeds of Crime Act.

The order, issued in September 2016, forbids defendants Mr Peters, Mrs. Alison-Madueke, Atlantic Energy’s Kola Aluko and Jide Omokore, Christopher Aire (a jeweller for Mrs. Alison-Madueke) and Donald Amamgbo (her cousin) from disposing of or dealing with the properties.

Mr. Peters’ company Aiteo is also linked to the 2015 INEC bribery scheme that saw Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s son, Ugonna Madueke, distribute $115million to INEC officials via Fidelity Bank in 2015.

About Arumemi-Ikhide

Mr. Arumemi-Johnson worked for Negris Engineering Limited, an electrical engineering firm, for 18 years, rising through the ranks to become executive director. He left the company in 2000 to form Rockson Engineering Limited. Shortly after forming Rockson, he was hired by the Rivers State Government to build the multibillion naira gas- powered Omoku power plant through which he is believed to have made his big break.

In 2002, Mr. Arumemi-Johnson bought a Hawker jet aircraft for personal use. He then incorporated Arik Air Limited on August 2nd, 2004. Arik began operations on October 30, 2006 after Mr. Arumeni-Johnson paid out N900 million to acquire the headquarters and other facilities of the bankrupt Nigerian Airways in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.

In 2006, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission investigated Arik and its owners following petitions that former Governor Peter Odili of Rivers State allegedly laundered his state’s funds through Mr. Arumeni-Ikhide and that it was the laundered money that was used to set up the airline.

And while investigating the allegations, the EFCC invited Mr. Arumemi-Ikhide for questioning. Searches were conducted in the offices of Arik Air and Rockson Engineering in Lagos and Port Harcourt respectively while documents relating to contracts and foreign exchange transfers were seized.

Although the report of the investigation alleged wrongdoing, no charges were brought against Mr. Arumeni-Ikhide.

On February 9, this year, the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) took control of the airline following the company’s inability to service its N325billion debt.


DOWNLOAD THE PREMIUM TIMES MOBILE APP

Now available on

  Premium Times Android mobile applicationPremium Times iOS mobile applicationPremium Times blackberry mobile applicationPremium Times windows mobile application

TEXT AD:ADVERTISE HERE! CALL 07088095401


All rights reserved. This material and any other material on this platform may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, written or distributed in full or in part, without written permission from PREMIUM TIMES.


  • David

    Foreign media houses refrain from saying if the beneficiaries of tax Haven business deals have done something criminal or not. In fact, no-one has stepped down or resigned as a result of the leak. It’s not criminal to have an interest in an offshore tax Haven but it’s criminal to evade tax in most countries.

    Indirectly, maintaining and hiding business interests in an offshore tax Haven by powerful and wealthy people denies their nations the tax that should have accrued to the them. The intent of maintaining and hiding business and business interests in tax Haven is to maintain wealth secrecy and “evade” tax.

  • David

    a minute ago
    Foreign media houses refrain from saying if the beneficiaries of tax Haven business deals have done something criminal or not. In fact, no-one has stepped down or resigned as a result of the leak. It’s not criminal to have an interest in an offshore tax Haven but it’s criminal to evade tax in most countries.

    Indirectly, maintaining and hiding business interests in an offshore tax Haven by powerful and wealthy people denies their nations the tax that should have accrued to them. The intent of maintaining and hiding business and business interests in tax Haven is to maintain wealth secrecy and “evade” tax

  • JUDGEMENT day Proceedings

    HEAVEN : Oyedepo, as a Pastor while on earth, can you explain why you flew in Private Jets?
    OYEDEPO : I had the money my Lord! I could afford it.
    HEAVEN : Are you aware that millions of church members were hungry and had no transport to take them to church?
    OYEDEPO : Yes my Lord.
    HEAVEN : So is it morally right that you flew in more than one private Jet in the midst of massive poverty of worshippers?
    OYEDEPO : No Sir. Sorry No my Lord! I am sorry. Please forgive me.
    HEAVEN : Why did you slap a little girl in Church in front of the congregation? And u said u would slap her again and again!
    OYEDEPO : Ple forgive me my Lord.
    HEAVEN : Why did you not apologize to the girl? Is that not pride?
    OYEDEPO : I am sorry my Lord. Pls forgive me.
    HEAVEN : You collected Tithes from members of your Church. Where is the money?
    OYEDEPO : I bought Jets with the money, built mansions, schools and the rest are in Panama, Paradise & Pandemonium tax havens
    HEAVEN : Is that not fraudulent, stealing by trickery and outright deceit and robbery?
    OYEDEPO: Yes my Lord! I am sorry pls forgive me.
    HEAVEN : Why is it that your University is so expensive that the poor cannot attend?
    OYEDEPO : Pls my Lord forgive me. I am sorry I wish I can have another chance.



    …to be continued!

  • Izedomi Ohirein

    These writer is confusing business for corruption.
    Mr Arumemi Ikhide started business long before 2000. Owning Ejemai farms.
    He was never a politician or held any political appointment.
    David Cameron’s father and Queen of England were named as among those whose private funds are held in offshore accounts Tax heven.
    Mr Arumemi Ikhide has not broken any law.

    • Kenny

      What was his net worth before 2000?

      • Izedomi Ohirein

        That he delivered on that project and other subsequent projects, like Alaoji power station in Abia state is more important than probing or trying to deride him, when he has done nothing wrong.
        They should go after those who took nigerian money and ran away. Arumemi Ikhide built his business on hired equipments including Arik Air and borrowed money He has done nothing wrong.

    • Chris Udoh

      My friend, stop defending the defenseless. Just as Zedomi, has asked, how much was his net worth as a poultry farmer that would generate so much money to set up an airline. And if the purpose of setting up an airline was to run commercial ventures, why did he engaged in such intricate offshore companies with ownership hidden. He doesn’t has to be a politician before being involve in a money laundry activities.. From the report of the above financial dealings of Mr Arumemi – Ikhide, there is no doubt that he and some yet to be identified co- horts were used as front by politicians like Dr Odili, the else while former governor of River State, to siphon state funds The whole thing stinks

      • Izedomi Ohirein

        His net worth when he executed the River State power project is not relevant, unless you want to deride him.
        He delivered that project and many more. His underutilised Nigerian capacity outweighs his net worth, as an individual.
        I believe Mr. Arumemi Ikhide has immense capacity being rubbished – derided by detractors like you and the writer of this article.
        Anyway I am Izedomi. Mr Arumemi Ikhide has not broken any law.

        • Chris Udoh

          Pardon me, mr Izedomi. Let not our argument or opinion about the issue degenerate into atmosphere of rancour or bitterness, thus obscuring the the main meat in the borne.I hope you are not the spokeman of Mr Arumemi – Ikhide, anyway. The basis of him being investigated is his link with people of dubious characters and the non tranaparency of his business dealings. The paradise paper report is not an accessment of the author’s report but a mirror of his business dealings. The report is not questioning his ability to do a deal but the manner of his complex offshore dealings. If you like, go over that financial report again, please.Above all, you don’t have to break any law before one’s character is cast in aspersions, but when your action and deeds give room to doubt who you are. Offshore accounts, amongst other cases,is design for the purpose of tax avoidance. That in itself, is immoral and unpatriotic towards your country.

          • Izedomi Ohirein

            Mr Udoh, please be rest assured that I havent met Mr. Arumemi- Ikhide in person. I have followed his progress nonetheless. He is my Clansman and my kinsmen. We are not related and I don’t know him as person.
            People live within the law, not by your perceived moral standards etc. Morality is subjective, often influenced by your understanding and station of life.
            Tax avoidance is not a crime. Tax evasion is a crime.
            The Former British Prime Ministers (David Cameron’s) late father and The Queen of England are among those named with private assets in Tax haven. No one has accused them of Tax evasion.
            Mr Arumemi – Ikhide has not broken any laws and has done nothing wrong.

  • Hinds Peter

    The bible says”spare the rod and spoil the child”.As a bible believing christian no apology.Peter Carlos Hinds.Commander.Barbados.

  • Hinds Peter

    A father chastises his children.Because he loves them.If he did not care about his children.He would not abuse them.Peter Carlos Hinds.Commander.Barbados.

  • Hinds Peter

    The queen Elizabeth and Mrs Universe and Mrs World.Should be Pharaonically circumcised.Peter Carlos Hinds.Commander.Barbados.

  • Kickboxer

    WOW, PREMIUM TIMES! THANK YOU ALL FOR THE PROFESSIONAL WAY IN WHICH THIS CASE WAS PRESENTED ASSUMING OF COURSE THAT EVERY FACT IN THIS STORY WAS, WELL, THE FACT AND NOTHING BUT THE FACT.

  • takethetrain

    well that depends on whoisregistering them…btw, with at least 500,000of them .who is paying the fees?