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Former bank MD Atuche jailed 12 years for N25.7bn fraud

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Former bank MD Atuche jailed 12 years for N25.7bn fraud

 

A former Managing Director of defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, has been jailed for 12 years over a N25.7 billion fraud.

Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja, jailed Atuche and the bank’s former Chief Financial Officer, Ugo Anyanwu for stealing and conspiracy to steal the said amount. Anyanwu was handed a 10-year prison term by the judge.

Atuche’s wife, Elizabeth, who was charged along with the duo was, however, discharged and acquitted.

Sentencing the pair on Thursday, Justice Okunnu upheld the arguments of Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), who prosecuted the case on behalf of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with the fiat of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.

EFCC had in 2011 arraigned the defendants before Justice Okunnu over the N25.7bn fraud.

But Atuche and the co-defendants approached the Lagos State Court of Appeal, after about three years, to challenge their trial by the lower court, for lack of jurisdiction.

The Punch reports that in a judgment delivered in September 2016, the Lagos State Court of Appeal ordered Justice Okunnu off the trial but did not quash the charges against the defendants.

The EFCC then approached the Supreme Court to set aside the decision of the appellate court and order trial in the matter.

READ: EFCC probes Tinubu’s Alpha Beta, Fowler quizzed over N100bn tax fraud

After listening to the EFCC’s counsel, the apex court directed that the case be returned to Justice Okunnu for continuation of trial.

Atuche and his wife returned to Justice Okunnu with Pinheiro opposing Atuche’s contention that the funds in dispute were loaned, not stolen.

But the judge agreed with Pinheiro and held that since the money belonged to the bank, it was capable of being stolen.

Okunnu further stated, “The first defendant confirmed the bank’s ownership of the money when he said the bank in lending money makes profit.

“I am persuaded by the statement of Pat Utomi that ‘the bank still has control over money that’s left in its coffers, no matter who uses it’.

“Helen Eriyo, who is the account officer of Petosan, being unaware of the loans granted, lends credit to the testimony of Mr Ololo that he was not aware of the loan.”

Okunnu mentioned that since the alter egos and true directing mind of the companies knew nothing about the loans, the loans indeed were a hoax.

“Counts 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 have been established. The first and third defendants did not debunk the evidence of the prosecution that the loans were used to purchase shares. They rather contended that the monies granted as loan could be used for whatever purposes,” Okunnu stated.

She subsequently sentenced Atuche and Anyanwu, while Atuche’s wife was acquitted.

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