Former bank PHB MD Francis Atuche jailed for 6 years over N25.7B fraud
The Lagos State High Court, Ikeja has sentenced a former Managing Director of defunct Bank PHB Plc, Francis Atuche, to 6 years’ imprisonment for N25.7bn fraud in the bank.
Justice Lateefa Okunnu who presided over the case which has lasted for 10 years also sentenced the bank’s former Chief Financial Officer, Ugo Anyanwu to 4 years’ imprisonment for stealing and conspiracy to steal.
Atuche’s wife, Elizabeth was however cleared of the charges of conspiracy and discharged and acquitted.
How it started
Recall that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC had in 2011 arraigned the defendants Atuche and Anyanwu for allegedly stealing about N25.7 billion belonging to the bank between November 2007 and April 2008.
The anti-graft agency had also claimed that N14.7 billion of the total N25.7 billion they stole was fraudulently described as a loan to some companies but subsequently they converted the said sum to personal use.
The Commission had listed the companies as Future View Securities, Extra Oil Limited, Resolution Trust and Investment Limited, and Tradjek Nigeria Ltd.
The EFCC also alleged that another N11bn stolen by the defendants was used to purchase about 984,375,000 units of Bank PHB shares for themselves but the sum used for purchasing the shares was described as a loan to some companies including, Guesstrade Services, Sentron Trading, Montrax Investico, Claremount Management Ltd., Trenton Trade, and others.
However, 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.
This led to the the Lagos State Court of Appeal judgement in September 2016 ordering Justice Okunnu off the trial but did not quash the charges against the defendants.
However the EFCC approached the Supreme Court to set aside the decision of the appellate court and order trial in the matter.
After listening to the EFCC’s counsel, the apex court directed that the case be returned to Justice Okunnu for continuation of trial.
The court convicted the duo on 21 of the 27-count amended charge of conspiracy to commit a felony and stealing brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
According to PM News, Okunnu said “The first defendant (Atuche) and the third defendant (Anyanwu) are found guilty of counts one to 11, 14 to 20, 23 and 24 of the charges contained in the information, and are convicted of conspiracy and stealing.
“On counts 12, 13, 21, 22 and 26, I pronounce the first to third defendants not guilty as the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
“On counts 25 and 27, the second defendant (Elizabeth) is found not guilty,” Okunnu said.
Sentencing the defendants, the judge said that Atuche abused his position of trust by stealing from the bank.
“By stealing from the bank, they stole from innocent customers of the bank.
“I hereby make an order of restitution against the first and third defendants to refund the sums stated in counts one to 11, 14 and 24.
“The sums are to paid to the relevant agencies that recovered the funds on behalf of the bank.
“The first defendant is hereby sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on counts one to 11, 14 to 20, 23 and 24,” Okunnu said.
“The third defendant is hereby sentenced to four years’ imprisonment on counts one to 11, 14 to 20, 23 and 24,” she held.