N25bn fraud: Court of Appeal affirms conviction of ex-Bank PHB MD Atuche, Anyanwu

Written by on June 23, 2022

The Court of Appeal in Lagos has affirmed the conviction of a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB Plc, Francis Atuche in the N25.7 billion fraud case.

The court also affirmed the conviction of Mr Atuche’s accomplice and co-convict, Ugo Anyanwu, who was the bank’s former Chief Financial Officer.

It also affirmed the acquittal of Atuche’s wife, Elizabeth.

The three-man panel of the court comprising Justices Sadiq Umar, Adebukola Banjoko, and Kayode Bada upheld in part, the June 16, 2021 judgment of Justice Lateefa Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja.

The high court had sentenced Messrs Atuche and Anyanwu to six years in prison. The convicts challenged their convictions and prayed to the appellate court to set aside the lower court’s decision.

But in an abridged ruling read by Mr Umar, the three-man panel upheld the EFCC’s arguments and unanimously dismissed the appeal.

They were arraigned in 2011 before Mrs Okunnu and they pleaded not guilty.

Reading her judgment that lasted over 10 hours, Mrs Okunnu upheld the arguments of Kemi Pinheiro (SAN), the EFCC prosecutor, that the N25.7 billion was stolen, not loaned, as argued by Mr Atuche.

She held that the money belonged to the bank and that it was capable of being stolen

“The 1st defendant confirmed the bank’s ownership of the money when he said the bank in lending money makes a profit.

“I am persuaded by the statement of Pat Utomi that ‘the bank still has control over the 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.

“The alter egos and true directing minds of the companies knew nothing about the loans. The loans indeed were a hoax.”

The judge also held that 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.”

(NAIRAMETRICS)

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